A VITAL transport link is facing a new threat to its survival - just two years after it was saved from closure.

Hythe Ferry is reeling from Hampshire County Council’s decision to axe an annual subsidy which kept the service afloat, cutting congestion on the A326 and other major routes.

The subsidy - worth about £80,000 a year - is due to be axed on March 31.

Now ferry bosses are urging Southampton City Council to find the money needed to save the centuries-old service which links Hythe and Town Quay.

New Forest Post:

In a letter to the authority Lee Rayment, director of Blue Funnel Ferries, says: “It will not survive without support from someone.”

Mr Rayment is lobbying the council following its decision to launch a pollution-busting charter which aims to help Southampton become a low carbon city with a cleaner economy and a greener landscape.

White Horse Ferries sold the service to Blue Funnel in 2017 in a move widely seen as securing its future.

Since then the new owners have spent £40,000 on improvements and have seen the number of passenger journeys jump to 195,000 - a rise of more than 12%.

But the survival of the transport link is once again under threat.

Mr Rayment’s letter to the council says: “Unfortunately we have recently lost the subsidy from Hampshire County Council, which we had arranged before the purchase of the business.

“This is a real set-back for us and is likely to push us to the edges of viable operation.

“The Hythe Ferry is an essential part of getting cars off the road and reducing traffic on our already struggling highways.”

New Forest Post:

Mr Rayment’s plea for financial help has received the backing of Southampton Shipowners’ Association.

In its own letter to council the association says: “The ferry is an important service linking the city centre with the outlying suburbs of the Waterside.

“It transports in excess of 195,000 commuters each year and takes a huge swathe of vehicular traffic off the A35/A33 western approaches to the city.

“The service is a natural ‘Green Champion’, quietly and efficiently providing thousands of citizens with an environmentally beneficial way of getting to and from work.”

The council leader, Cllr Chris Hammond, pictured, pledged to hold talks with Blue Funnel.

He said: “I will be arranging a discussion with Blue Funnel on the challenges they face on funding now that Hampshire County Council have withdrawn their subsidy.

“We will work in partnership with a wide range of businesses, community groups and residents locally as part of our commitment to delivering the Green City Charter.”