OPERATORS of a popular ferry route have pledged to stay afloat after civic chiefs announced plans to slash thousands of pounds in subsidies.

Hythe Ferry, which links the Waterside with Southampton, relies on £50,000 in taxpayer-funded handouts every year.

But up to £7,000 of that could be sunk without trace if Southampton City Council goes ahead with planned efficiency savings for next year.

The remainder of the grant comes from Hampshire County Council, and the authority has ringfenced its share of the cash.

Ferry director Peter Lay said: “It is unhelpful and the money is important.

“But we have been running the service through two world wars and the Great Depression and I am sure that we can weather the difficult economic climate we are facing.

“I would say to people please, please, please consider using the ferry whenever they can.”

About 500,000 people use the service every year, with subsidies accounting for about one passenger per crossing.

Councillor Warwick Payne, leisure spokesman for the council, said the decision to axe the subsidy was not yet set in stone as extra funding has become available from central Government.

He added: “As we decide which services may be suitable for extra cash we will aim to announce these as soon as possible.”