Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cowes chain ferry passengers stranded as vessel breaks down

Chain ferry Image copyright Karl Love
Image caption Passengers were helped from the stricken chain ferry when it broke down

Passengers were left stranded on the Isle of Wight's chain ferry after it broke down a day after services began.

The travellers had to be helped from the Floating Bridge by staff, with some taking off shoes and socks to wade through the river water to the slipway.

Ferry staff suspended services after a technical breakdown and said the vessel may be out of action until Monday.

The new Floating Bridge replaced a vessel that had crossed between Cowes and East Cowes for 40 years.

Video footage from Saturday showed bumpers scraping the slipway as vehicles disembarked from the vessel.

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Media captionCar bumpers scraped on Cowes floating bridge ramp

Isle of Wight Council had previously said "final teething problems" would be dealt with before the official launch next month.

Crowds had gathered to see the first crossing of the chain ferry which meant an end to a 10-mile road diversion for drivers after its predecessor was retired in January.

Independent councillor for East Cowes Karl Love, said it was a "catalogue of disaster".

"Everyone was desperately wanting this to be a success for the town - everyone was so excited. It was clear from the beginning cars couldn't get off in a straight line."

Image caption Crowds gathered for the much anticipated first crossing of the new chain ferry

Ferry staff told the BBC the service had been suspended until engineers could examine the vessel.

A launch used to ferry foot passengers since the start of the year has been put back in action in the meantime.

In a statement, issued before the ferry began operating, the council said there had been "relevant tests, commissioning and staff training".

"However, the real test will begin as she welcomes visitors aboard on the weekend. This is an important stage as the next two to three weeks is where any final teething problems or minor issues whilst it is being used can then be dealt with," it said.

The ferry, which can accommodate 20 cars, was built in Wales and has an expected lifespan of 40 years.

The vessel and slipway work has cost £4.6m, of which £3.8m came from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.

Image copyright Andrew Cooke
Image caption The old chain ferry was taken out of service on 2 January

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