AN UNDER-THREAT ferry service has been thrown a financial lifeline.

Hythe Ferry has received emergency funding from Hampshire County Council to continue to run in the short-term.

The, undisclosed sum, will cover the charter costs of a replacement ferry while the current vessel undergoes maintenance work.

It's also hoped the cash will keep the service running while owners White Horse Ferries look for a buyer for it and the pier.

Cllr Malcolm Wade, county council member for Hythe and Dibden, said he was delighted that the council had stepped in to help.

"It is very good news because the county council supports the ferry and has done for a long time," he added.

"I checked with the council as soon as [owners] White Horse Ferries had some of their people made redundant and asked them if they would continue to support the ferry.

"They said 'yes' and they will do all they can to support it, so I am very happy this announcement was made.

"We need to keep the ferry because it is an important part of Hythe's history and a vital transport link."

Despite the Hythe Ferry mainly being a commercial business, the county council has provided a subsidy towards the cost of operating it for a number of years.

As reported, the Hythe to Town Quay ferry service is under threat due to dwindling passenger numbers and lack of investment.

Owners White Horse Ferries are trying to find a buyer for the service but in the meantime staff have been issued with redundancy notices.

Director of White Horse Ferries Peter Lay told the Echo in October that the “month on month decline” in passengers and the £200,000 needed to maintain the pier were stopping the service from being viable.

But nearly 9,000 people signed a petition calling for the service to be saved, and a committee was formed to take control of the pier.

Cllr Rob Humby, cabinet member for environment and transport at the county council, said: “I’m pleased we’ve been able to step in and help ensure there is no break in this service, which is much valued by the local people who use it."

The news, which was announced yesterday, was well received by a number of locals.

George Campbell, a resident of Hythe, was delighted by the announcement.

"The news is very much welcomed," he said.

"It is an important part of the town and I am very glad that it is to keep going - if not just for the time being."