BRITTANY Ferries has expressed concern about passenger numbers post-Brexit despite an increase over the summer.

The firm said passenger traffic rose by two per cent over the summer season (July-September) compared with the same period last year, and by seven per cent on the Poole to Cherbourg line.

However the company, which recently announced a €450m investment in three new ships, says bookings are down for summer 2019, and it has blamed uncertainty over Brexit and the maintenance of free movement.

CEO Christophe Mathieu said: “While the summer period saw an encouraging rise in passenger traffic, we cannot afford to be complacent.

“Eighty five percent of our passengers are British holidaymakers visiting key regions in France and northern Spain. And we know that uncertainty and instability in the UK will have consequences on both sides of the channel. “

Mr Mathieu said the firm needed “passengers and freight” to match its “significant investment” in fleet renewal, such as the new LNG-powered Honfleur, which will serve the Portsmouth-Caen route from next year with a capacity for up to 1,700 passengers.

“Family bookings for next summer already show a worrying downward trend, so today we sound the alarm,” he said.

“A poor deal, or perhaps no deal at all, could impact Brittany, Normandy and the Loire, regions that have benefited directly from the links we have established and the demand we have grown for Brits travelling overseas over the last 45 years.”

Brittany Ferries’ data shows the number of passengers travelling between Poole and Cherbourg rose from 85,388 over the summer last year to 91,156 for the 2018 summer season.

Overall the firm’s freight volumes for the same period fell by five per cent, from 47,815 to 45,649 units.

The company says that, aside from its own profits, “the value to western French regions is clear: the vast majority of British passengers are destined for Brittany, Normandie and the Loire, boosting local economies and employment”.