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

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Chair's Letter November 2021

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

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



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