2023 Dock and River Cruise Saturday 2nd September. For details see Future Events section below.

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TRIBUTE TO OUR FOUNDER PRESIDENT

GORDON LINDSAY

Friends of the Ferries Across the Mersey

 

39 South Parade
West Kirby
Wirral
CH48 0QG

19th February 2018

Dear Rosemary,

We are all very sad indeed to hear the news that Gordon has passed away.

He led such a very active professional and political life, and was always very well respected.

For us, of course, his great success was mobilising the general public to save the Mersey Ferries. Filling halls with the supportive public was a major achievement in 1977, quickly followed by getting Parliament, no less, to remove the clause in a Bill which would undoubtedly have led to the closure of the Ferries.

Our Committee meetings, chaired by Gordon, were very productive but always enjoyable, even sociable!   Much was attained, and as you know investment in vessels, infrastructure and staffing followed as politicians realised the determination of the public, rallied by the Friends, to keep the services running.

So, Merseyside is grateful for Gordon’s initiative all those years ago, and today the Ferries are a very important icon for the region. Friends are still active in promoting and defending the Ferries (we still have about 500 annually paid-up members), and the good news in recent weeks is that designs have now been produced by Merseytravel for a new ferry vessel hopefully to be built in the next few years.

Our regards and condolences to you and your family from us all.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson, Chair,

Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

c/o 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Wirral, CH63 3EQ

www.friendsoftheferries.org.uk 

                                                                        

Dear Member, November 2022

 

Weatherwise, we have all had a good run for our money this summer, with ferry passengers returning to pre-Covid levels, reflecting the sunshine and warm temperatures which we have been enjoying. The prospect for the future of the Ferries remains encouraging as Gary Evans (Assistant Director for Customer Delivery at Merseytravel) explains in his reprinted November letter on the reverse of this sheet. There is undoubted support by elected members for progressing further planned improvements whenever Liverpool City Region and Mersey Ferries Press Releases are issued.

At Seacombe, two major parts of the jigsaw are now in place with the re-opening of the extensively refurbished terminal and stage on 17th October, and the imminent opening of the £12m Eureka! Exhibition for young people on the 11th November in the terminal complex. The latter, covering science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, should also bring more passengers to the Ferries, although the entrance fee of £15.95 for people over age 2 years seems rather steep. However, it is valid for one year. Free parking for ferry passengers with season and multi-trip tickets will continue to be available.

At Woodside, the prompt closure this November for the proposed refurbishment or renewal of the stage planned to start within the next 6 months is disappointing. However, the City Region is already discussing a detailed feasibility study with Balfour Beatty to use awarded levelling up funds. This is a fixed amount in a climate of rising costs! It will also be interesting to see what proposals emerge at Woodside from “Big Heritage” (now operators of the U boat Exhibition, as well as the Liverpool Western Approaches WWII Atlantic Convoys Museum). In addition, you will see from the correspondence that I am endeavoring to retain one of the Woodside gangways as a static artifact, hopefully with a soundtrack of its operation!

Nevertheless, the most significant issue now – that of the ferry vessels themselves - is yet to be resolved, although discussions are ongoing and an announcement will be made “in the coming months” following further reviews, at which time we will be notified by Gary Evans.

Elsewhere on the river, Cammell Laird are quite busy, with work just commencing on the Heysham - I.o.M. freight/passenger ferry Ben-my-Chree, the Western Isles Calmac ferry Loch Seaforth, the destroyer HMS Daring, and Fred Olsen’s cruise liner Borearlis, which now fills the dry dock next to the Priory’s St. Mary’s Tower. The liner has regularly sailed from Liverpool this year. Decisions on a new Cruise Terminal remain in abeyance until next year or later while everyone takes stock of the recovery from Covid and the current financial crisis. Meanwhile, some cruise prices seem quite cheap! At Seaforth, it is reported that positive moves to resolve the pay dispute have taken place - worries exist that some container companies might decamp to other ports if the situation continues.

With this mailing, please find Geoff Holmes’ Newsletter, and our Christmas Draw tickets organized by Gordon Ditchfield, together with subscription reminders or receipts. We anticipate holding an AGM in the middle of next year, and have penciled in with Mersey Ferries Saturday 2nd September 2023 for a Dock & River Cruise. Best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson                                 

Hon.Chairman                                                              

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

c/o 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Wirral, CH63 3EQ

www.friendsoftheferries.org.uk

 

Dear Member, June 2022

 

Well, here we are, the summer solstice is behind us, and the days are getting shorter already! Never mind, we have had some good weather and high temperatures, notwithstanding the mixed bag we were served with during the Jubilee Bank Holiday. Hope you have managed a ferry trip or two using the Woodside Terminal with its welcoming environment and a wide range of catering offers. One negative there, however, is that the vintage tram service now terminates round the corner in Shore Road, due to defective rails (shades of Merseyrail!). We hope the Tramway Preservation Society can soon obtain the necessary repair funds.

The circular Mersey Ferries “Explorer” cruises remain popular, and we are glad to note a further expansion of the limited Liverpool Bay, Birdwatching and Wild Life, and Evening Cruises. Some of the last-named, with live music, are sold out months ahead. Visitors can also purchase joint tickets to ride the open-top buses. Meanwhile the Pier Head Terminal has been renamed after the late Gerry Marsden, whose “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey” continues to bolster Merseyside’s tourism. Incidentally, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has recorded a classic version of this popular piece.

With regard to our annual Dock and River Cruise, a very suitable July date was identified and offered, but we decided earlier in the year that the continuing vicissitudes of Covid, the hesitancy of many older people to be exposed to infection if bad weather crowded the vessel’s saloons, and the absence this year of easy car-parking at Seacombe, were factors which could make the event unviable.

Turning to the fundamental issue of the future of Mersey Ferries, Geoff Holmes’ Newsletter in this mailing reprints some optimistic correspondence I have recently had with Gary Evans, Merseytravel’s Assistant Director for Consumer Delivery, whose responsibilities include the Ferries. You will see that monies remain safeguarded for capital expenditure on vessels – although inflation and national and international economic woes must continue to erode the value of these funds. Nevertheless, you will note that allocated investment by the Liverpool City Region and Government Urban Regeneration for schemes in the Woodside area, including a new landing stage, suggest strong support for the ferry service. This funding, together with that which is being undertaken at Seacombe Terminal, the Eureka Children’s Museum, and the U-boat 235 Exhibition, suggest that a solution to our aging vessels will be found, even if it takes a little longer!   We must hope that the vessels meanwhile remain operational in an environment where safety cannot be compromised. There have been a number of service cancellations in recent months.

Elsewhere on the river, the belated new Isle of Man terminal is on course for a 2023 opening, while the hull of the Company’s new vessel, the “Manxman”, has been “launched” into the dock in South Korea, complete with engines and major machinery. The Cruise Liner terminal has a busy year ahead, but there are doubts about agreeing the extension due to the effects of Covid on travel, and the current finances of the Council. However, it is reported that 40 new liners worldwide come into service this year, with 75 on order!   Peel Ports state that a further £140 million has been spent enlarging by 30% the Liverpool 2 riverside container terminal, including another 2 giant cranes. In another snippet, we have learnt that the Seacombe stage moorings were disturbed when the Belfast ferry was allowed in a medical emergency to proceed at speed to its Birkenhead 12 Quays Terminal.

Our May AGM was once more postponed because of Covid anxieties – 1 in 35 people are now infected after the Jubilee events. Meanwhile, the present Committee will remain on duty, with my thanks to all of them. Again, special thanks are due to Gordon Ditchfield who has organised our very successful Christmas Draw, and also arranged this mailing! Please renew your subscription for the current year 2022-23 on the form below, and return to Gordon. Our strength is in numbers – we have some 450 members.

 

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson, Hon. Chairman

PS You might like to look at a U tube clip prepared by Tim Abraham, a John Moores journalism lecturer, as part of his post-graduate studies.

He got full marks for capturing the atmosphere of his ferry trip! https://youtube.com/watch?v=PpWpiDBJk1Y  (lower case k, figure 1, capitalY)

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

c/o 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Wirral, CH63 3EQ

www.friendsoftheferries.org.uk 

 

Dear Member, November 2021

 

I hope our latest mailing finds you well. Waves of optimism and pessimism concerning the course of the pandemic continue to crash into each other, framed by a similarly turbulent economic backwash.  Meanwhile, as I write, the warm and relatively dry October weather has stimulated some very good half-term ferry passenger loadings.

As you will see from the enclosed Newsletter, Gary Evans, Assistant Merseytravel Director for Customer Delivery, tantalizingly hints that all may not be lost regarding a new ferry vessel, but we’ll just have to be patient and cross our fingers! At least some progress has been made in keeping the existing vessels running (although the scope of these works has not yet been clarified for us), but we are pleased to learn that funding for Mersey Ferries is still available.

At Seacombe, refurbishment of stage and terminal continues. Mid-October saw the stage reconnected to the mainland, providing spectators with a ringside seat of the Lara 1’s floating-crane operations. Completion of the stage has been delayed from Autumn to January 2022 by issues relating to the weight of the old link spans, and some river wall repairs. It is expected that ferry services will resume in April 2022 at which time the alterations to the terminal building (including a link to the new Eureka children’s activity centre and museum) will be ready.

We are also informed that commuter traffic is 25% down on pre-Covid levels, which were about 400 return journeys per day. This is broadly in line with other public transport reductions, notwithstanding the added disruption of relocating to Woodside.   Less palatable perhaps is the news that Ship Canal cruises will turn around at Latchford Locks (just after Warrington and before the M6), due to lack of dredging at Salford Quays, and unpredictable problems with other Canal infrastructure. There and back trips in 1 day will remove a number of logistical problems for Cruise operation, but it is sad that we will not be able to “do” the whole of this major engineering feat. Does anyone know when these excursions commenced?   It must be 50 years or so since I became aware of the then Co-op trips.

Cllr. Liam Robinson (Transport Portfolio Holder for the City Region) also replied to us last June about our concerns for the future of the Woodside Terminal stage following a key examination in March 2023. He assured us that the City Region and Wirral Council were working in a formal partnership about Woodside. Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor, has now made a statement on 25th October confirming that, subject to funding, the City Region is appointing designers for a new stage, and an upgrade of the U boat exhibition. This co-incides with a recent Government £19.6 million grant specifically for the regeneration of the Woodside area, which is in addition to other recent Central Birkenhead funding, Thus, it appears that the future prospects of the Woodside stage are being safeguarded – very good news indeed!

Elsewhere on the river, the Cruise liner terminal is now busy again, with some major vessels like the Queen Elizabeth and the Anthem of the Seas making multiple visits on “staycation” UK trips. Just to the north, the new Isle of Man terminal continues to take shape, commemoratively linked to the city centre by Jesse Hartley Way, after that great Docks Engineer. The I.o.M. Steam Packet Co. has also refurbished its Heysham Terminal. On the other side of

the globe in Korea, it has celebrated a start on its new-build ferry ”Manxman” at the Hyundai Mijo Dockyard with an initial steel-cutting ceremony on 20th August.. Cost is £78 million, with delivery scheduled for March 2023.

Our Newsletter, edited by Geoff Holmes, is enclosed, together with tickets for our ever-popular Christmas Draw, run by Gordon Ditchfield. (Our funds are reserved in case future Counsel’s advice is needed). Gordon has also organized this mailing. Membership receipts or reminders are in the envelope, too. We hope to run a 2022 Dock and River Cruise, but some matters remain uncertain at this time. My best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson
Hon.Chairman.          

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

c/o 7 Foxcovers Road, Bebington, Wirral, CH63 3EQ

www.friendsoftheferries.org.uk 

 

Dear Member, May 2021

                                                                                                                             

Some aspects of our lives at present are like being on a roller-coaster! April’s sunny, and dry weather quickly gave way to May’s torrents of rain! More seriously, Covid 19’s virus seemed to be tamed by vaccinations, only to threaten us with its Indian mutation, although as I write, the vaccines seem to be able to cope. I do hope that you have all been able to keep well throughout. Meanwhile, signs of some normality returning come with the resumption of the Ferries’ River Cruise, but with pre-booking to control numbers. For standby single tickets, you can use a Saveaway or your concessionary pass. (With a pass, round-trip Cruise fares need a supplement). Another good omen was the arrival in Liverpool on 24th May of the brand-new Venus Viking cruise liner – the first for 14 months. “Staycation” liner visits to Liverpool with UK passengers are numerous this year.

Significantly for Friends of the Ferries, the roller-coaster analogy also applies to the saga concerning the new ferry vessels. Members will recall that initial bids by ship-builders exceeded the budgeted funds, and that revisions to the design were to be followed by renewed invitations to bid. However, the resubmissions are even higher! Merseytravel has now decided to invest instead in refurbishing the two existing 60 years old ferries. In writing to us, Gary Evans assures us that Merseytravel intends to retain the services. We have no details yet on how the funds may be spent – on hulls, superstructures, engines, compliance requirements or facilities. We also need to know the extended life this will provide.   However, the revitalized ferries will join the local veterans Daniel Adamson and Kerne, and visitot Waverley, which are still going strong. (See also Geoff Holmes Newsletter).

We have written to Cllr. Liam Robinson, who holds the Transport Portfolio for the Liverpool City Region, urging him to facilitate negotiations with Wirral Council to ensure that the Woodside stage can be retained after a major inspection scheduled for 2022/3, to bolster the tourist potential of Central Birkenhead, now being regenerated.  At Seacombe, we learn that the stage refurbishment is on target for opening late summer, although the terminal building will be finished later. The new bridges and other link spans will be assembled shortly at Garston Docks. The stage pontoons need only internal work, so dry-docking is now unnecessary.

Elsewhere on the river, the completion of the new Manx ferry terminal is being further delayed by the re-inforcement of the dock walls to cope with the turbulence from bow-thrusters, The access road and car park are complete, but the terminal will not now open until 2022.   The Polar Research vessel Sir David Attenborough has returned to Cammell Lairds after further trials. Work will include installation of equipment scheduled to be done in Norway but prevented by Covid. She will sail later this year to resupply Antarctic depots, but scientific research is likely to be delayed until later, when the complex facilities are in place. Our ever- popular Friends of the Ferries Dock and River Cruise will not take place this year due to prevailing Covid uncertainties. Social distancing – or the lack of it – may deter bookings, and also any reduced capacity aboard would mean higher fares. Roll on 2022!

Our usual May AGM was once more postponed because of Government social-spacing demands. Meanwhile, the present Committee will remain on duty, with my thanks to all of them. Again, special thanks are due to Gordon Ditchfield who has organised our very successful Christmas Draw, and also arranged this mailing! Please renew your subscription for the current year 2021-22 on the form below, and return to Gordon. Our strength is in numbers – we have some 450 members.

                                    

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson, Hon. Chairman