Councils stump up £67k to keep threatened Hythe ferry afloat
THREE councils have pledged to provide £67,500 of funding to keep the “vital” Hythe ferry afloat.
New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council have each confirmed they will give the service £7,500 a month for three months.
The coronavirus pandemic has stretched the ferry to its limits and Lee Rayment, manging director of operator Blue Funnel Ferries, had warned it faces going under without help.
He told the A&T he was “pleased” at the new funding pledges, adding they would enable the boat to be refitted completely for when the service resumes, which is likely to be in June.
As reported in the A&T, the company had previously warned that the ferry had “run out of money” and the service would not be starting up again when lockdown restrictions ease.
The ferry links Southampton and the Waterside and could prove key to easing traffic from thousands of new homes planned in the area.
Mr Rayment said: “It makes sense for them to do this. To be honest, it would be daft for them to let the ferry go when in the background everyone is becoming more eco-friendly and they want to get fewer cars going into and out of Southampton and improve air quality.”
Cllr Rob Humby, Hampshire County Council deputy leader, said ferry services in general had been “majorly impacted” by Covid-19, but had not had much financial support from the government.
“We want to do what we can to help,” Cllr Humby said. “For this reason, we provided support last year and it is why we are agreeing to additional financial assistance now.
“Without additional financial support the ferry operators have made it clear that they will not be able to carry on, resulting in the loss of valuable local ferry services.”
Southampton City Council said it was “delighted” to join HCC and NFDC to pledge the money. It added: “This will support these vital services and ensure that key workers in the region can continue to travel with maximum ease throughout the ongoing challenges of Covid-19.”
Meanwhile, work began on Monday to the south side building on Hythe’s Victorian pier, confirmed the Hythe Pier Heritage Association, which is seeking to restore the historic structure.
It added the work was for “temporary protection only”, while plans are put in place and funding raised for a permanent restoration.