THE owner of a well-used ferry service has vowed to “fight on”, despite losing funding from Hampshire County Council.

Lee Rayment, director of Blue Funnel, said that while the withdrawal of county grants – which amounted to £152,250 in the past two years – was “without doubt a concern” for the Hythe Ferry it won’t sink the service.

He added when his company took over the service in April 2017 it was faced with a number of costly upgrades and repairs to the ferries which accounted for most of the county cash.

Mr Rayment believes that no extra expensive work is needed, and the ferry service can be self-sustaining, if managed properly.

Mr Rayment said: “It is without doubt a concern. However, the whole business was in such a state when I took over, that the funding has assisted me get the ferry back to a stable and safe position.

“We have had to perform major fabrication works on the ferry and provide a back up boat to support, enabling 100 per cent reliability on the service.

“There is no doubt that I will fight on in order to keep the operation going. The traffic on our roads is ever increasing, and sustainable public transport must be maintained to encourage environmentally friendly ways of keeping cars off the roads and reducing pollution.”

He added: “We need to be smart about our timetable. For example we run our commuter services at peak times, and then every 30 mins [throughout the day] in the summer, and every hour in the winter [as there will be less passengers].

“Currently, the majority of our users are tourists, but we would still like to get more commuters if we can, to get more cars off of the road.”

However, the service can still apply for one-off grants from the county council if it intends to start any major project, such as buying a new ferry.

Mr Rayment also added that the Hythe Pier Heritage Association has just achieved charitable status, meaning it can obtain funding to solely fix and maintain the pier – which was originally built in 1880. He adds that talks will begin soon to allow the association to take over the running of the pier, allowing it to repair and improve the structure, as well as the 110 year old train.

“This will allow me to focus efforts on providing a reliable ferry service,” added the Blue Funnel director.

Councillor Rob Humby, transport chief at Hampshire County Council, said that over the years the authority had give the ferry £1.6 million.

“ We will continue to provide £3,000 to meet the annual harbour dues at Southampton and will, of course, consider any future requests for one-off funding on their merits and in light of funding available.”

Blue Funnel stepped in to buy the struggling service for an unreported amount in April 2017 saving 25 jobs on the process.