Letter to Frank Field RE: Future of the Mersey Ferry Royal Daffodil

19 January 2018 
Mr Frank Field, MP
House of Commons

Dear Mr Field,

Future of the Mersey Ferry Royal Daffodil

As you may recall, Friends of the Ferries was set up in 1977, when there was first a threat to the future of the Mersey ferries, to try to ensure their continued existence as a local transport and leisure facility. We have around 500 annually paid-up members, the majority of whom live in various parts of Wirral. We are writing to seek you help in arranging a meeting with the Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, as this is proving extremely difficult.

We meet periodically with Councillor Robinson, the Chair of Merseytravel, and some of his senior managers. One issue which regularly comes to the fore is the future of the Ferry Royal Daffodil (formerly Overchurch), which has been laid up for several years. Merseytravel maintains that it needs only the other two ferries (Royal Iris of the Mersey and Snowdrop) to operate its services. We have always disputed this and believe that imaginative use of the additional facilities added by Merseytravel to the Royal Daffodil should be exploited, particularly in connection with the growing number of waterfront and other conferences being held in Liverpool. This could provide income (at a rate of about £1000 per hour) from the vessel, rather than incurring the costs involved in laying her up, and would make a third vessel available in the event of problems with either of the other two vessels.

In our view, the unsatisfactory nature of the present arrangements was shown up by the accident on 10 July 2016, when the Royal Iris of the Mersey struck an obstacle while on a Manchester Ship Canal cruise. She was out of service for several months and has needed to be taken out of service several times since. Inevitably, with only one vessel available on occasions, services have suffered and there have been too many cancellations of the regular ferry sailings, especially in the summer period, resulting in a loss of revenue, as well as inconvenience to passengers and loss of reputation. The following list shows the days of which we are aware (there may also be others) in recent months when the ferry service was not running:

Date 2017 Reason
Sun July 23 Royal Iris broke down in Manchester Ship Canal ; Snowdrop serving liner Azamara Journey.
Fri July 26 Royal Iris still out of service; Snowdrop on Manchester Ship Canal Cruise.
Sat July 27 Royal Iris still out of service; Snowdrop in Canal.
Fri Aug 4 Early finish at 17.40. Royal Iris still out of service; Snowdrop needed for evening cruise.
Wed Aug 23 No service until 17.00. Royal Iris under maintenance; Snowdrop in Canal.
Thurs Sept 21 No service morning and early afternoon. Royal Iris broke down. Snowdrop in Canal.
Sun Oct 1 Royal Iris broke down; Snowdrop in Canal.
Thurs Oct 5 No service until 15.00. Royal Iris broke down; Snowdrop in Canal.

 As you can see, on many occasions the ferry service has been suspended because priority has been given to the Manchester Ship Canal trips or even to tendering a visiting cruise ship.

One particularly sad feature of this business is that the Royal Daffodil is the last remaining Mersey ferry to have been built by Cammell Laird. Her permanent loss would mean the disappearance of another part of our local heritage.

We have been trying to arrange a meeting with Steve Rotheram, but our letters appear not to reach him; instead they have been forwarded to Merseytravel, who give us a standard response that the vessel is surplus to requirements, and refers to the proposal to construct a new vessel which is clearly some years from fruition. Since Steve is responsible for local travel, we believe that he should be made aware of the situation. Perhaps he could use some of his new local transport budget to bring the Royal Daffodil back into service?

We would very much appreciate any help you can give us in arranging such a meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson

Malcolm McRonald
Vice Chairman & Treasurer.

Click here to see the response from Steve Rotheram - Metro Mayor, Liverpool City Region