TWO Hampshire ferry services could be thrown a financial lifeline after a traumatic year that has left them struggling to survive.

Hampshire County Council has agreed to give grant aid to the Hythe and Gosport ferries - but only if other local authorities do the same.

The county council says it is prepared to give £7,500 a month to the Hythe ferry, plus £15,000 to the Gosport service.

But the payments will be made only if they are match-funded by New Forest District Council, Southampton City Council, Gosport Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council.

The county council's offer follows a year in which the ferry services have seen a huge fall in revenue.

Cllr Rob Humby, executive member for economy, transport and environment, said: "The Covid-19 situation has had a major impact, with passenger numbers dropping dramatically.

"Unfortunately local ferries have not been able to benefit from the same level of government support as the bus or rail industry and we know this has created particular difficulties.

"Without additional financial support the operators have made it clear they will not be able to carry on, resulting in the loss of valuable ferry services.

"The payments are subject to match-funding being confirmed by other local authorities whose residents would be affected if the ferries were to cease operation."

People living in the Hythe area have launched a Crowdfunding campaign to save the service, which is run by Blue Funnel Ferries.

They are aiming to raise £60,000 - the cost of the vessel's annual inspection and overhaul.

Referring to the possible payments from local authorities Blue Funnel Ferries director Lee Rayment said the money would enable the company to carry out the refit.

He added that cash raised by the Crowdfunding appeal would help meet the cost of restarting the service.

"The (county council) funding is reliant on the other councils - let's hope they all commit to help us get going again," said Mr Rayment.

"It's far from over and if the local councils don't agree it could still be the end."

A report to county councillors warned: "In the absence of a new support package there is a strong likelihood the service could cease to operate."

Hythe author and historian Alan Titheridge added: "The future of our ferry has been put in real danger by the Covid restrictions over the past year.

"The ferry has a rich history and must have a future."