A FAST ferry service from Portland to France will be ready to set sail in April 2013, if the economic conditions are right.

Addressing a Portland Community Partnership meeting, Jonathan Packer the director of HighSpeed-Ferries, told residents that the service will generate £4m a year and bring tourism and trade to the area.

He said: “There will be plenty of financial as well as tourism benefits. We have made a fairly conservative evaluation and that figure is £4m a year.”

Mr Packer refused to be drawn on costing and said that the start date was dependant on a postive economic outlook.

He said: “Everything is detailed within a very thorough business plan.”

During his presentation, Mr Packer revealed that plans for the service include a separate entrance from Portland Port so that passengers will not go through the high security area.

Portland offers the fastest crossing to France in the Western Channel and it is the intention of High-SpeedFerries to carry passengers and vehicles in a two-hour crossing to Cherbourg.

The company will operate three trips during peak season times, with 66 members of staff employed.

The journeys will be provided by a catamaran similar to Brittany Ferries’ Normandie Express vessel running out of Portsmouth. Mr Packer said full time staff will also be employed to run marketing, booking and operations onshore in Portland.

The plans were met with concerns from Castletown residents who said they are worried about the increased volume of traffic.

But the company director gave an assurance that HGV vehicles would not be using the service, which will take up to 125 cars and vans on a single journey.

He said: “It will be quite a small volume of traffic compared to the cars already coming on and off the island. We are required to operate outside the rush hour. For each journey in and out there will be an average of 125 cars.

“All the consents are now in place bar one small one.”

Portland Community Partnership spokesman Andy Matthews told Mr Packer that Portland residents would be happy to have a two-way relationship with the new service.

He said: “The mood of the community is that we will support the plans but we would like to see benefits for us and we would like to work with you to make that happen.”