A CROWDFUNDING campaign launched to keep a Hampshire ferry service afloat has sailed past its initial target.

Blue Funnel Ferries, which operates the Hythe to Southampton route, has already received more than £5,000 in donations and is now aiming to raise twice that amount.

Cash has been coming in since the company was forced to suspend sailings following a massive drop in income.

Blue Funnel is hoping the sum it raises will be doubled by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, which has set aside £100,000 to match-fund sums collected for small businesses.

The Crowdfunding campaign was launched a few weeks ago with the original goal of netting £5,000.

New Forest Post:

Following the appeal's success the target now been raised to £10,000 to help finance plans put forward by the Hythe Pier Heritage Association, which wants to refurbish the pier's electric railway.

Lee Rayment, owner and director of Blue Funnel, took to social media to confirm that the fundraising campaign had hit its its original target.

He said: “I am so humbly amazed at how not just the local community but ferry supporters far and wide have pledged to support the pier, train and the ferry in these very different times.

“Please don’t stop donating as every penny is going to make this service and attraction stay with us all for a long time to come."

As reported in the Daily Echo, the service was suspended on April 19 after trade dropped by 90%.

New Forest Post:

In normal times the ferry is used by between 150 and 700 people a day, depending on whether Saints are playing at home. But as the lockdown continued the number of passengers plummeted to just 15 a day.

In a message to customers Blue Funnel said: "The company can no longer support the service with the drastic drop in passenger numbers.

"We would love to continue but cannot financially maintain the service. Hopefully these unprecedented times will ease in the near future and we can return to some form of normality."

The appeal has so raised £5,939 - 59% of its new target.

Comments left on the ferry's Crowdfunding page describe the service as a priceless piece of living history and a wonderful asset to the local community. One person posted: "I cannot imagine Hythe without the ferry."

To donate go online and visit crowdfunder.co.uk/hythe-ferry-and-pier-covid19.