BITTER disappointment has greeted the shock news that Poole is to lose the Barfleur and its year-round ferry link with France.

The Barfleur, which for 17 years has been plying the route from the port to its twin town Cherbourg, is to be withdrawn in the spring.

The loss of the conventional ferry will leave the high-speed May to September service on the Normandie Vitesse, alongside the freight ferry Cotentin sailing to Cherbourg and Santander, Spain.

Brittany Ferries says there will be no immediate job losses in Poole but the Barfleur, which carries 1,212 passengers and 590 cars, has been haemorrhaging money.

“The Poole to Cherbourg route using the Barfleur has lost us money since 2003,” said spokesman Steve Tuckwell. “We are trying to stem the losses by withdrawing that ship from service.

“Although the Barfleur is being taken out of service we are going to be offering more crossings from Portsmouth.”

But that is scant comfort to Poole Harbour Commissioners, whose chief executive Jim Stewart said: “This came completely out of the blue.

“It’s a disappointment and it will certainly impact on the port. There will be a substantial reduction in the number of ferries coming in and out of Poole and a substantial drop in revenue for the port.”

He said they had not seen the schedules and as they had only had the news for 24 hours, it was too soon to know the consequences for jobs and the port.

Cllr Ron Parker, Borough of Poole cabinet portfolio holder for the local economy, said: “We are bitterly disappointed.

“While we understand that the ferries are going through a difficult period at the moment, there is extreme disappointment here at Poole both for tourism and the economy of the two towns.”

Bruce Grant-Braham, chairman of Poole Tourism Panel said: “Poole Tourism is trying to increase business in the shoulder times of the year so that is a blow.”

Mr Tuckwell said there was a possibility of job losses in the future, hopefully on a voluntary basis. And they were looking at increasing the number of sailings of the Cotentin.

The Barfleur will sail the route for the last time at the beginning of February and the Armorique will make the crossing until March 8.