Three local councils have put together a £90,000 package to help keep the Gosport ferry running.
Gosport, Portsmouth and Hampshire councils will each give the ferry company £30,000, to help it maintain a service for the next two months.
The deal comes after lengthy talks involving the business, the three local authorities and the Department for Transport on ways to keep the service going in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
The ferry, a vital everyday link for communities on either side of Portsmouth Harbour, is used by a significant number of key workers.
Since lockdown the number of passengers has dropped by about 90%, and around half of the 36 staff have been furloughed. Only one of the two vessels is running.
The Department for Transport has worked alongside the three councils, and encouraged Gosport Ferry to explore further options from the wide range of financial support measures already introduced by the Chancellor to support UK businesses.
Cllr Mark Hook, Leader of Gosport Borough Council, said: “This is great news for the people of Gosport. The three councils and our colleagues in government have worked really hard on this package, and I’m glad everyone has recognised how important the ferry is. It’s a big financial contribution at a time when councils are facing huge losses because of the current crisis – especially for Gosport, which is by far the smallest council of the three and has received the least amount of emergency funding from the government.”
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to put this deal together and provide emergency help to this vital local service. These are difficult times, but we all understand the importance of the ferry and want to do our best to keep it operating.”
Cllr Keith Mans, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “We know just how vital the ferry is for people living in Gosport and working in Portsmouth – and as a result of the three councils coming together, we’ve been able to help keep the service running.
“The county council recognises that the ferry offers a ‘lifeline’ for so many residents that have to travel regularly between Gosport and Portsmouth. Without the ferry, which takes approximately five minutes to cross the water, people would be required to travel to Portsmouth by road, which can take up to an hour and a half – a journey of 14 miles each way to the centre of the city. We also know that high number of key workers are dependent on the ferry to get to QA hospital – which of course is especially important at this time. As we begin to move into the ‘recovery’ stage of the pandemic, and people start to travel more, the ferry will play a crucial role in supporting the local economy.”
Ferry general manager Clive Lane said: “Gosport Ferry is delighted to keep the ferry service running in support of our key workers and the national effort. We are grateful for this further financial support package which, combined with the ongoing commitment from the ferry’s holding company, will provide much-needed resources until passenger activity returns to more normal levels.
“The company is particularly grateful to local MP Caroline Dinenage and for the support of local councillors for this vital local service.”