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21 April 2017, 08:05
The Hythe Ferry across Southampton Water starts running under a new operator today, after being saved.
Blue Funnel Ferries confirmed its takeover this week - after years of falling passenger numbers.
The firm says it'll refit the current ferry and bring in a second one.
Lee Rayment, Director of Blue Funnel Ferries Ltd, and Blue Funnel Cruises Ltd, said:
"This will secure the immediate future of this important transport link and begin process of change which will provide a real opportunity for the service to flourish once again.
"I am very pleased to confirm that the staff who have demonstrated their commitment and support over the recent period of uncertainty are being transferred to the new company providing security for their employment.
"Our first task is to restore a reliable service however this will involve taking the existing vessel Great Expectations out of service for an annual refit. This will involve the usual maintenance and the detailed inspections of the vessel, including shafts and propellers as stipulated by the MCA, (Maritime & Coastguard Agency), but also involve a change of colours and name (although the new name has not yet been confirmed). We also plan further improvements to the boat including heating for the winter and upgrading the seats. These will be planned and implemented in due course.
"Due to the urgency of the works required to Great Expectations we will be organising this as soon as possible and during this period we will be providing a temporary boat. Whilst this is less than ideal it is important to ensure that the works are completed without delay, we therefore ask for your patience and support in the short term.
"We recognise the necessity to have a second vessel available in order to provide a reliable continuous operation and we have therefore secured a boat that we intend to use to assist on the route. This boat is currently undergoing its own refit work before being brought into service.
"Once we have completed these first steps and have the main vessel back in service we will announce changes to the timetable and fares which we believe will prove popular and demonstrate commitment to our customers.
"Our objective is to make this historic ferry service a modern reliable and cost effective operation which offers a real alternative to using your car, as well as providing a unique and enjoyable means to travel to and from Southampton
"An integral part of the ferry is the pier and train, they are intrinsically linked and I recognise the important history and heritage associated with each. Throughout the period of negotiations to purchase the business I have maintained contact with the HPHA (Hythe Pier Heritage Association). This group with the support of the whole community have demonstrated a real passion and commitment for the pier, the train and the ferry. I look forward to holding detailed discussions with them to explore opportunities to work together and secure the long term future of the pier, the train and associated buildings.
"Blue Funnel Ferries look forward to this new venture and a new chapter for the Hythe Ferry and we very much hope you will support the service and help us create a better future. We look forward to seeing old and new customers on the ferry in the near future and for many years to come."