THE future of a threatened bus service in Southampton has been secured – but at a cost to many passengers.

Red Funnel has announced it has stepped in to rescue the CityLink service, which was under threat after key funding was withdrawn.

But the new service will now only remain free for people with valid tickets for travel to and from the Isle of Wight.

A flat fee of £1 per trip will now be introduced for all other passengers from the middle of April.

More than one million passengers used the free service, which runs between Southampton Central railway station, the city centre, and the Isle of Wight ferry terminals on Town Quay, last year.

But, as previously reported in the Daily Echo, cash-strapped Southampton City Council has removed £110,000 of annual funding from the service.

And WestQuay operator Hammerson has also now dropped its funding for the service, which began in 2000, leaving its future uncertain.

Now Red Funnel has stepped in to shoulder the financial burden, with the new service running every 30 minutes along its existing route along Portland Terrace and Castle Way.

It will remain free for anyone with a Red Funnel ticket, or a valid rail or National Express ticket to or from the Isle of Wight, but other passengers will now have to pay.

Red Funnel’s chief executive, Kevin George, said: “We believe it is essential that we continue to provide a fully integrated transport link for the Isle of Wight by linking our Hi-Speed Red Jet and East Cowes ferry services with the cities rail and coach services.”

And the firm’s sales and marketing director, Jonathan Green, said: “By taking over the CityLink contract we now have scope to improve its visual identity and integrate it with our real-time ferry information system so customers can see where connecting services are in relation to one another.

“In time, we would also like to improve connections for National Express customers.”

Details of the new timetable will go online later this month at