A PETITION to re-open a ferry crossing between Harwich and Denmark has collected more than 17,000 signatures so far.

Campaigners are continuing to petition for the relaunch of the Harwich to Esbjerg ferry crossing, which was ground to a halt by shipping company DFDS in 2014.

A petition group was launched five years ago by shipping enthusiast George Moore when he was 14.

Since then the group has grown to nearly 2,500 members on Facebook from England, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

James Drennan, who helps run the group, said the group’s website has prompted many stories of hardship and frustration because of the route’s disappearance.

He said: “Many of these are people who have family in the UK or Scandinavia and miss the ability to travel by car to visit with all the creature comforts having their own vehicle gives them.”

However, he said there has been little interest in the UK recently due to the “impasse in UK Parliament on Brexit”.

He said: “With the promise of our departure from the EU imminent, perhaps there will be renewed interest in forging links with our Scandinavian neighbours.”

The campaign group has received a positive response from Markus Lindbom, the chief commercial officer at Stena Line.

Mr Lindbom said: “It is gratifying that there is such a large group of people interested in a new ferry route.

“We are constantly looking for new opportunities to enhance and develop our route network to better serve our existing and potential customers.”

A DFDS spokesman said she was aware of the strong interest many people have in re-opening the route.

She said: “Unfortunately, the route was unable to compete with low-cost airlines and other travel options.

“The decline in passenger numbers began in 1999 when duty free sales disappeared and reduced the passenger numbers from about 300,000 annually to under 100,000.

“Passenger numbers continued to decline, and even though we did try to save the route by deploying a combined passenger and freight ferry to reduce costs and have freight contribute to the route, we still saw the competition from low-cost flights and changed travel patterns towards shorter weekend trips kept reducing passenger numbers.

She added: “Market developments do not give us any hope there will be a basis for a viable passenger service in the future.”