THE Sandbanks Ferry is finally back up and running again after being out of service for almost 16 weeks.

Thousands of people have been affected by its absence and some are still calling for the chain ferry service to be put out to tender.

However, on Thursday, long-suffering motorists were finally able to make the Poole Harbour crossing on the Bramble Bush Bay

Since July 12 drivers have been forced to travel 25 miles to get from Sandbanks to Studland.

Yesterday, driver Peter Williamson told the Daily Echo: “Great that it is back, especially for the end of this half term.

“I’m a regular down to Studland and it is always much nicer to be able to use the ferry. I’m sure all the local businesses will be happier now as well.”

Meanwhile, Christine McCowan said: “It has been too long out of service.

“People both sides depend on it running smoothly. We all have our fingers crossed it will be okay this time.”

Mike Kean, managing director of the Sandbanks Ferry Company, has apologised for “the issues caused by the service suspension.”

Initially it was thought the ferry would only be out of service for a month, but the need for a specialist part from Sweden caused the estimated outage to increase significantly.

Mr Kean said: “We know that the lack of a ferry service has caused a difficult and frustrating summer for many residents of Studland, Swanage and Poole, as well as for local businesses and of course, for the Company and its employees.

“We’d like to extend our sincere apologies once again for the issues caused by the service suspension, and a heartfelt thank you for the support we’ve been shown by the local communities while the ferry has been out of service.

“Our staff and contractors have worked incredibly hard over the summer on the repairs in order to return the ferry to the passengers who rely on it.”

The chain ferry, which operates between Shell Bay, Studland, and Sandbanks, Poole, experienced a broken driveshaft.The company says it paid an extra £46,000 to halve the time to secure the replacement component – and replaced the second unaffected driveshaft assembly to minimise any risk of future loss in service.