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Hythe ferry crowdfunder launched as councillors call on government to keep it afloat

There has been a Hythe ferry service since 1887
There has been a Hythe ferry service since 1887

THE community of Hythe is rallying together to save a much-loved passenger ferry service which has been running since 1887.

Earlier this week, it was announced the operator Blue Funnel Ferries had “run out of money” and the service, which is currently not running due to lockdown, would not be starting up again as restrictions ease.

Managing director Lee Rayment said Hythe ferry had not made a profit for 18 months, and the company had made a total loss of £190,000.

But the community has come to the rescue, with local resident Ashleigh Mutimear setting up a crowdfunder with a target of £60,000 – enough to cover the cost of a refit which the vessel is due in June. It has raised £2,500 since being set up yesterday.

Local councillors are also in talks with the government over the future of the ferry, with county councillor for the area Malcolm Wade saying it “must be saved”.

Last year, Blue Funnel received £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.”

Leader of HCC Cllr Keith Mans said the authority was currently in discussions with NFDC and Southampton City Council over ways to help the operator over the coming months.

“We are also raising the issue with government about making financial support available to ferries along similar lines as other public transport, such as buses and trains, during the pandemic,” he said.

Cllr Wade has called on local authorities to pull together, stressing the importance of the ferry both from a heritage perspective and a vital and sustainable transport link to Southampton.

“It must be saved, as both Hampshire County Council and New Forest District Council have transport strategies supporting non-vehicular modes to reduce congestion on our roads and carbon emissions,” he said.

“Most of all, it must be saved for local people and future generations to go to Southampton by water rather than by road; I call upon central and local government to work together to provide the funding to keep this service alive.”

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.

To donate visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/savethehytheferry

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