THE future of Hythe ferry is hanging in the balance as its operator announced it has “run out of money”.
Lee Rayment, managing director of Blue Funnel Ferries, said the service, which is not currently operating due to lockdown, would not restart any time soon.
“With the Redbridge roadworks I am sure there is a few that would prefer the ferry,” he wrote on Facebook. “The problem is, we have run out of money.
“The service has not made a profit for 18 months, showing a total loss of over £190,000. We have nothing left to get going again.”
The vessel is also due a refit before June at a cost of at least £60,000, Mr Rayment continued, which the operator could not fund.
“We are not going to earn that before then,” he said. “In addition, we don’t have the money to keep the business running on a potential loss.
“We have been rejected by top government and are now trying to speak to other local government bodies for help and financial assistance.
“The crowdfunding helped us last summer but unfortunately a similar amount just wouldn’t be enough.
“I hope this clarifies the position and why we are not in a rush to restart any time soon.”
As reported by the A&T last year, Blue Funnel was given £45,000 to help ensure the service stayed afloat this winter after it was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
New Forest District, Hampshire County and Southampton City councils each gave £15,000.
But even then, Mr Rayment sounded a note of caution.
“It’s survival money that will help us get through the winter,” he said. “People are still not working and we are taking a lot of tourists at the moment, but as we get to the winter we will have some very hard times.”
A passenger ferry service has run between Hythe and Southampton since 1887, but HCC dropped its revenue subsidy for it in 2018/19. The only payment it now makes covers the pontoon landing charges at Town Quay, which is the result of a historical legal agreement.
In May 2020, a fundraising initiative to help Hythe ferry received more than £5,000 in donations.