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Chairman's AGM Report 2016

Welcome everybody.  Thank you for attending our 39th AGM!  Our Membership is maintained at just under 500 paid-up members – a slight decline, but nothing too significant.  Do encourage your friends to join.  We need this strength to argue our case with Merseytravel and Mersey Ferries!

With regard to Policy matters, our cordial relations continue with Cllr. Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel, and Gary Evans, Head of Consumer Delivery (which incorporates the role of Chief Officer in charge of Mersey Ferries). Nevertheless, as you will have learnt from my Chair’s letters to you in the last year, we were given little time to respond to the limited consultation period allowed with regard to the publication of thr Mersey Ferries Long Term Strategy.  We were able to meet them on 29th December, only about a week before the report was considered by the Merseytravel Committee.

You have received a copy of the letter we sent to Cllr. Robinson before the Committee meeting, in which we protested vocally at the proposed closure of the Woodside stage in the context not only of the Mersey Ferries operation, but also the future of the Liverpool City Region tourism industry.  Other like-minded bodies and people responded similarly.  The Committee approved the Strategy but resolved that “officers be requested to look at options around all three terminals: Pier Head, Woodside and Seacombe; that should include a future three terminal service”.   Not entirely satisfactory, but at least a move in the right direction.  You will see from our letter that we also raised issues

about aiming for a cost neutral budget for the Ferries, the value of Heritage assets, the commuter service, the future of the Royal Daffodil, and the basing of the Manchestere Ship Canal cruise vessel at Ellesmere Port.

We have now had sight of the Consultants’ Report – a lengthy document one has to scroll through on the computer screen, and so far I have yet to find detailed information on why the Royal Daffodil should not be brought back into service, or the full rationale for the closure of Woodside stage.  I wonder in fact if these were “givens” when the Consultants were engaged.  Neither have I unraveled the costs of new-build ferries versus the cost of maintaining the existing fleet – people travel on Heritage railways to be pulled by an historic steam locomotive, not a modern diesel.  As far as I am aware, the hulls of the existing vessels are sound, even if the Royal Daffodil does need new engines.  In a similar vein, we were told that removing Woodside as a stop would be beneficial to passengers – my view is that berthing and setting off from a stage was part of the ferry experience!

We will have to remain alert as Merseytravel begins to implement its Strategy in the coming months and years.

Financially, Friends have had another successful year with a surplus for the year of over £1900.  Our Dock and River Cruise and Christmas Draw were responsible for much of this.  Our thanks to Malcolm, our Hon. Treasurer, for his paintaking work in managing our money flows - he has more details later in his report.

Our Hon.Publicity and Marketing Officer, Joan Roberts, is in charge of Sales.  Once again she has attended numerous events and fairs during the year advertising our Society in the wider world.  Greatly helped by John Timms, she has generated funds for the Friends through sales, membership subscriptions, and her famous picture raffles. Our grateful thanks to both for the considerable time spent organising and running the stalls, and the significant public relations value which the work has accumulated.

Hon.Membership Secretary Gordon Ditchfield has not only brought in our Subscriptions, but is also responsible for organising the ever-successful Christmas Draw, and making the Dock and River Cruise arrangements.  Many thanks to him for carrying out these duties.  I’d also like to thank our Newsletter Editor, Geoff Holmes and our Hon. Secretary David Hocker, and all the other members of the Committee - Bob Peers, Terry Edgar and Andrew Blizzard - who have contributed to the smooth running of Friends’ activities.  The Committee is able to consider co-opting persons prepared to join the Committee.

Our Dock and River Cruise on 20th June last year again had fine weather, and numerous ships were observed on the river and in the docks. Our commentators Andy Ball and Stuart Wood really enjoyed the day, and will be back this 25th June.  Get your tickets this evening – and help sell some to your friends and colleagues!  Mersey Ferries have been very helpful in selling the tickets at all three terminals, and advertising our Cruise in their literature.

Our Website is now up and running again, relatively inexpensively, with the help of a professional firm “Designated” based at Vale House, Vale Park. We are very pleased with the outcome, but we will probably need additional expertise to update it from time to time!

The web address is:  friendsoftheferries.org.uk

Your Committee will continue to monitor Mersey Ferries activities on your behalf, and it will be interesting to see what policies emerge as Merseytravel becomes part of the active Liverpool City Region organization.

I look forward to seeing you all on our Cruise on 25th June.

Andrew Hodgson,

Hon. Chairman Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.   

18th May 2016.