2024 Dock and River Cruise Saturday 22nd June. For details see Future Events section below.

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Chair's Letter May 2021

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

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



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