Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has pledged support to the Hayling Ferry, contributing to its return and future.
The announcement coincides with the launch of The Hayling Ferry Trust, a movement which ensures the restoration of the service after 18 months of inactivity.
The trust will manage funding and support for the ferry operator to revive the much-loved link between Hayling Island and Portsmouth, with aims to raise a total of £40,000.
Sir Richard Branson has made the first donation of £5,000.
Clare Satchwell, who is leading the launch of the trust, said: “We have been working very hard to bring back the ferry and everything is in place to get it started again. We just need money and local support.
“Richard Branson and the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada team responded to calls for help from local residents. This is amazing news and we are confident that we can get the remaining funds required to get the ferry back up and running really quickly.”
This news comes just a day before the biggest kitesurfing event in the UK — the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival — hits the shores of Hayling Island from the 17th to the 19th of June.
In March of this year, local resident Mark Coates led a group of residents in contacting Branson to help bring back the Hayling Ferry.
The Virgin tycoon responded: “The residents of Hayling have always made us feel so welcome when we’ve been on the island. When we heard about the difficulties the much needed ferry was having, we knew we had to step up and do our bit.
“Hopefully now we will soon see the remaining funds raised and the ferry returning back to action.”
Dan Charlish from the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada said: “Our kitesurfers and festival-goers love coming to Hayling for the festival, it’s a beautiful island, has great kitesurfing conditions, and most importantly a great community!
“We hope our donation is the first of many and the ferry is back out on the water soon.”
Now, The Hayling Ferry Trust are calling on businesses, residents, and local authorities to pull together and save the much-needed link back to the mainland. If the required amount is raised, the ferry could be back in operation in as little as a matter of weeks.
Clare added: “The passion from residents for the ferry is so clear, we are crowdfunding and advanced ticket vouchers can be purchased now.”
Tim Trayte from Baker Trayte, owners of the ferry, said: “The trust is a great solution. We will be putting a lot of our own time and money into the ferry service but The Hayling Ferry Trust is an essential part of ensuring the link is maintained.”
The Hayling Ferry Trust will be showcased on Saturday at the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada Festival, and there’ll be a drop-in session at Hayling Island Community Centre between 3:00pm and 6:00pm on Thursday 23rd June for anyone with further questions on the matter.