TOP levels talks will be held next week to ensure the future of the Hythe Ferry, which has been plagued with problems.

Ferry bosses and councillors will meet to try thrash out an action plan to iron out the problems and get the service back on track.

It comes as councillors and campaigners have called on bosses to urgently improve the "unpredictable" service.

They say the historic ferry, which operates between Hythe and Southampton, has been battling problems over the past two months.

Only one of its three boats is currently in service as the Hotspur IV needs extensive repairs, including a new hull.

The Uriah Heap suffered damage when it was in collision in Town Quay, and is being repaired.

Passengers were left stranded on Saturday when the regular boat Great Expectations, suffered mechanical problems. The vessel had just come back onto the water after being out of service for a month for its annual inspection.

Eye witness accounts from passengers say the engine cut out – and when it made it to Hythe from Southampton, and they were not given any replacement transport.

The Daily Echo understands top level talks will take place between operators White Horse Ferries, Lib Dem Cllr for Hythe Malcolm Wade and Hythe Parish Council next week.

Hythe Ferry receives a £50,000 subsidy from Hampshire County Council.

Cllr Wade said: “They have not been able to have a regular service for a number of weeks and on Saturday, when the ferry broke down, there were a number of people who were left standard in Hythe and Southampton who couldn’t make it back.

“It has never been this bad. Lots of people in Hythe are concerned about it and they want to know what’s going on, clearly something has to be done to improve the situation.

“There has been a crossing there since Anglo Saxon times. I want to see a level of service for people in Hythe and Dibden retained.

“Hythe is where the forest meets the sea and we need that link with Southampton to maintain tourism and for people commuting.”

“It is unacceptable and I am working with Hampshire County Council and the parish council to find a way to ensure that the ferry service is restored to what it should be.”

Operations Manager for Hythe Ferry, Sath Naidoo, said the problem on Saturday was a one-off and he gave three passengers a lift back to Southampton from Hythe.

He added: “What you have to remember is that the boat goes backwards and forwards for 15 hours each day and something is bound to break down along the line.”

“We are back to normal now. It is unfortunate that one of the spare boats had a bit of a bump in Town Quay which damaged its GPR system.

"We have kept people informed on the website. We have had to run coaches because we are there to run some sort of transport system.”