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Letter to Councillor Robinson, Merseytravel

Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey

39 South Parade West Kirby

CH48 0QG

8th November 2016

Councillor Liam Robinson, Chair, Merseytravel,

Mann Island, Liverpool.

Dear Liam,

Mersey Ferries breakdowns, the Royal Daffodil, and Merseyrail Closures

The Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey Committee is alarmed by the recent turn of events, and has asked me to write to you with our views on the present situation.

In recent years, Mersey Ferries and Merseytravel have maintained that two ferry vessels are adequate to operate services, a concept which we have always opposed.

The problems suffered by Mersey Ferries during this summer and autumn highlight the deficiencies of a two vessel fleet.

The Royal Daffodil remains laid-up costing money without contributing to revenue.

We wish to know exactly what problems she has with her engines, and any other issues following dry-docking a few months ago.

As we have said previously, we think she is ideally equipped internally for chartering to the burgeoning Liverpool Conference market, for both “break-out” meetings and leisure trips.  At £1000 per hour, she could earn for example £200,000 per year from forty 5 hour charters.  This type of work would impose minimal strain on her engines.

By accepting charters which avoid the morning and evening peaks, and the Manchester Ship Canal trip-days, the vessel would be available to deputise for the more critical elements of the services if necessary.

With regard to the pressing problem of the 2017 Merseyrail Tunnel closures, we note that Mersey Ferries simply say they will maintain the existing service with a back-up vessel if required.   We have no explanation why the morning and evening peak Woodside commuter service, using the back-up vessel, is not to be restored for the duration of the closures.  There is no word even about restoring an earlier peak hour evening service from the Pier Head to Seacombe after 4pm.

At Hamilton Square there are many rail passengers who park their cars in the vicinity of the station; who arrive on a “kiss and ride” basis; or who travel there by bus.  A peak 20 minute Woodside Ferry service would reduce the demand at Central and Birkenhead North stations for rail replacement buses to Liverpool; reduce tunnel congestion by encouraging car drivers not to take their cars through the tunnel; and would increase bus patronage to Woodside.  In view of the likely problems at James Street Platform 2 during the restricted rail service from February to May, we would suggest that the Woodside Ferry service should operate during this period also. (Should the worst happen, and one vessel breaks down, a basic 30 minute triangular service would operate as in previous years, serving both Seacombe and Woodside). 

A further welcome initiative could include the advance issue of park-and-ride

tickets for the greatly underused bus park at Woodside. (If necessary some buses could lay-over at the bus stands).

Many people will be inconvenienced by the closures, and by the intermediate- period restricted rail service to James Street, including the inevitable and uncomfortable overcrowding, and a congested bus trip through the Tunnel.  A ferry service will minimise discomfort, and may even be quicker for many, (A single boarding point for Mann Island bus services would help those travelling towards Lime Street). The extra funding of an enhanced ferry service would represent a very small proportion of the total scheme costs, while at the same time improving the reputation of both Mersey Ferries and Merseytravel!

As a courtesy, I am copying this letter to Gary Evans, with whom we normally correspond.  We look forward to your response and are happy to attend a meeting to discuss the matter further.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Hodgson

Chairman, Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.

Click here to see Councillor Robinson's response.