A HAMPSHIRE ferry operator has been thrown a £45,000 lifeline as it battles to survive the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Three local authorities have joined forces to support the Blue Funnel service that operates between Hythe Pier and Town Quay in Southampton.

The ferry was still recovering from the start of the pandemic when England went into lockdown for the second time earlier this month.

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Once again passenger numbers have dropped dramatically, starving the service of vital income.

Now New Forest District Council, Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council have each agreed to give Blue Funnel £15,000.

Director Lee Rayment said: "Covid has really taken its toll with minimal tourist trade, and government advice to not use public transport.

"Our decline in numbers means the ferry is struggling to stay afloat and this finance will assist in its short-term future survival, especially with the second lockdown in place.”

Cllr Edward Heron is the district council's cabinet member for planning and infrastructure.

He said: "The ferry provides a valuable service to residents of our district, particularly those who work in Southampton as it provides a quick service whilst also reducing the number of vehicle movements on nearby roads.

"We are pleased to support the continuation of this service which has been badly affected by the pandemic.”

Cllr Keith Mans, leader of the county council, said the financial package meant the Hythe Ferry "can continue to provide an important public transport option for those living and working in the area”.

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Cllr Steve Leggett, the city council's cabinet member for green city and place, expressed similar views.

He said: "The ferry provides important transport connections across the Southampton Water and forms a key part of the wider public transport services in Southampton and Hampshire.

"We’re delighted to be joining forces with our partners to make funding available that will support these vital services."