Sandbanks Ferry to take months to fix after drive shaft failed
A chain ferry in Dorset will be out of service until the autumn after its drive shaft broke.
Repair work on the Sandbanks Ferry, which links Swanage and Poole, is under way in Southampton.
Operators said although no defects had been found in its other drive shaft its "condition is such that we have taken the decision to replace it as well".
The ferry, Bramble Bush Bay, was taken out of service on 12 July and had been expected to return by 12 August.
Operator Fairacres Group said: "We sincerely apologise to all our valued customers for this inconvenience."
The firm said the repairs were proving lengthy as specialist parts had to be made to order.
The ferry was suspended for nearly three months last winter, initially because of annual maintenance and then a hydraulic issue, which meant it only ran on two days between 29 October last year and 28 January.
The chain ferry, which normally runs every 20 minutes, takes four minutes to make the crossing from Sandbanks to Shell Bay - the alternative route from Bournemouth to Swanage, by road, is 25 miles (40km).
Chair of Swanage Chamber of Trade Caroline Finch said she was "in disbelief" at the further delay.
"It's been very inconvenient already for businesses in our busiest season and for their staff coming over.
"The people it has affected are people coming over on buses, on bikes and day trippers - it's not easy to jump in the car and come round - their custom will have been lost to Swanage."
Ferry operator, Fairacres Group, sought to double pedestrian fares to £2 by 2021 and increase car tolls from £4.30 to £6 claiming it needed the rise to fund a new vessel.
The Secretary of State for Transport refused the bid in December.