Ferry company proposes annual inflation-linked toll increases

Following the rejection in 2018 of the controversial plan to increase the Sandbanks Ferry toll, the operating company is now proposing a new price increase of around five percent for this year and for future annual rises to be linked to inflation.

The Sandbanks Ferry Company has just made an application to the Secretary of State for Transport, to increase the tolls in 2020 by around 5 percent compared to when they were last set in February 2015. From April 2021, the proposal is for future annual increases to rise, up to the rate of inflation.

Based on the ferry company’s financial projections, this is what it could mean for passengers for a single trip:

Pedestrian, cyclist and motorcyclist

Current toll 2020 – £1.00
Proposed 2020 – £1.05 (set Maximum Tolls Chargeable amount)
Proposed 2028 – £1.30 (inflation linked)

Car

Current toll 2020 – £4.50
Proposed 2020 – £4.75 (set Maximum Tolls Chargeable amount)
Proposed 2028 – £6.00 (inflation linked)

HGV and coach

Current toll 2020 – £9.00
Proposed 2020 – £9.50 (set Maximum Tolls Chargeable amount)
Proposed 2028 – £12.00 (inflation linked)

The company says that the Maximum Tolls Chargeable amount for 2020 represents an increase of less than half the rate of inflation since it was last set in February 2015.

The previous controversial application, that was rejected following a public enquiry and angry protests from passengers, proposed to increase tolls by April 2021 to £2 for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, £6 for cars and £12 for HGV’s and coaches.

The new proposal sees the toll for cars, HGV’s and coaches reaching the same amount but not until seven years later than first proposed in 2018. For pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, the prospect of an increase to £2, if linked to inflation, seems unlikely for a long time. The ferry company figures anticipate them paying £1.45 in 2031.

Books of tickets

The application also proposes freezing the price of the books of tickets at the current level until at least 2021. These tickets, that are mostly bought by local residents are available to buy in multiples between 10 and 100. It’s proposed that their price remains unchanged until it reaches 26%-30% less than single trip tickets.

As the price of a single ticket increases, the gap between the frozen price and the new price will mean that the discount will increase, although the price paid will go up.

Pedestrian, cyclist and motorcyclist

Current price of 50 tickets 2020 – £45.00
First proposed increase will be in April 2025 – £45.14

Car

Current price of 50 tickets 2020 – £170.00
First proposed increase will be in April 2021 – £171.15

HGV and coach

Current price of 50 tickets 2020 – £340.00
First proposed increase will be in April 2021 – £342.65

Anticipating future toll increases, many local residents stocked up on books of tickets last October 2019, when the company offered a special promotional rate of a 48 per cent discount on the current full ticket price, following the suspension of the service over the summer.

Managing Director of the Sandbanks Ferry Company, Mike Kean said:

“We have held detailed discussions over the past 12 months with local residents, councillors and MPs and have incorporated their feedback into the application proposals. These include increasing the discounts applied to bulk purchase of tickets and pledging not to pay dividends until the Ferry Replacement Fund is at the required level in any given year. We are incredibly grateful for their time and input.

“Toll increases are a necessary part of the mix in ensuring that our vital service to local businesses, residents and tourists is maintained long into the future, and we look forward to the application progressing over the coming months.”

The company has previously argued that toll increases are necessary, not only to cover rising running costs, but also to allow the company to replace the current ferry when it becomes too old to operate. The company now says that it estimates that the current ferry will need to be replaced in 2034, with the order for a new ferry made by 2032.

The Department for Transport and the Sandbanks Ferry Company will publish further details of the application consultation in due course.

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