REPAIRS to the Sandbanks chain ferry are being completed and the service should be operating by the end of this month, company bosses have said.

The ferry, which has been out of action since July 12, this year, is currently at a repair facility in Southampton.

Sandbanks Ferry Company managing director Mike Kean said: "We fully understand how frustrating and inconvenient the ferry service suspension has been to residents and businesses.

"That is why, in addition to carrying out the required repairs, we have used this outage time to carry out many non-essential maintenance and replacement tasks, well ahead of their required schedule."

The current service suspension is just the latest in a string of problems for chain ferry customers.

Last winter an unconnected technical issue left the vessel out of action for another three months.

In the aftermath of the latest service stoppage furious residents and business owners called for the company to be stripped of its licence, claiming it was not fit to operate the service.

However, others –including South Dorset MP Richard Drax – acknowledged this latest technical fault had been unprecedented.

Final elements of the repair are now being completed, after the hydraulic couplings arrived from Sweden.

The vessel, The Bramble Bush Bay, is now undergoing extensive checks and testing ahead of a Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspection next week, prior to being towed back to Dorset for several days of intensive testing on chains ahead of opening for service.

Mr Kean said: "We hope that this extensive programme of preventative works will offer our customers an additional layer of confidence that we have done everything possible to ensure that the ferry will offer a regular and reliable service in the years to come.”

Updates on the final aspects of the repairs, including information on the scheduled tow back from Southampton, will be posted each weekday on the Sandbanks Ferry Company’s Facebook, Twitter and website until the ferry is back in service.

The planned date of service return is expected to be at the end of October, with exact information on the date of the service restart to be announced.

Mr Kean said: "We are truly thankful for the patience and support of our customers during this exceptional outage period. We are looking forward to returning the Bramble Bush Bay to its rightful place as a vital transport link for the people of Studland, Swanage and Poole, and to restoring the trusted and reliable service which local residents have rightfully come to expect over many years.”