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

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Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey

Good evening again and welcome – thanks for attending our AGM.

Starting with the Mersey Ferries Operations, the year has provided some tangible reasons for optimism. Following reports that funding was being found for a new ferry vessel, we made enquiries of Merseytravel and were invited to a seminar on 6th August 2018 when a concept design of a ferry was presented to us for comment. We have subsequently learnt that a number of ship-builders are showing interest, and that a tender process should allow a chosen scheme to be selected later this year aimed at delivering the vessel about 2021.   Efforts are being made to secure additional funding to build a second ferry at a discount.   Diesel electric propulsion through azimuth pods has been selected, and the ferry will have a “traditional” appearance.

With our aging fleet, Mersey Ferries has decided to “bite the bullet” and make a move to safeguard the future service, a process which we of course heartily endorse.

Nevertheless, a note of caution intrudes in that the terminals at Seacombe and Woodside (the latter now well aged into its thirties) will continue to need investment. More subtle changes require monitoring including the possible charging for car-parking at Seacombe (unlike free railway parking at Bidston and Birkenhead North for example). Also, the first ferry on Winter Saturdays will be at 10.00am and on Sundays 11.00am.

Meanwhile, we learn that the Royal Daffodil has been sold to a firm involved in the tourist industry for mooring in Canning Dock, near Albert Dock, as a “leisure attraction”. Its role is unclear, but footfall in the vicinity is considerable and we hope the venture will be commercially successful. We know that Merseytravel is anxious to avoid a repetition of the slow demise of the 1951 Royal Iris which rotted away in the Thames, so although we are sad to lose Royal Daffodil’s ferry status, we hope she can have a new lease of life here on Merseyside. The future of the current Royal Iris of the Mersey and the Snowdrop remains unknown.

The river service in the past year has suffered from some breakdowns, but not on the same scale as in recent years, we have been glad to observe. The Mersey Ferries Events Manager has continued this year to develop evening activities, and hopefully further initiatives to expand passenger traffic will follow.

Financially, Friends of the Ferries continues in a sound position at the end of the year, with a surplus again of around £3000. Malcolm McRonald, our founder-member Hon. Treasurer, must be thanked once more for his careful work throughout the year managing our affairs. Our Annual Cruise and Christmas Draw brought substantial extra income, and our membership is holding up well with 450 annually paid-up members at the year end.. More details will be reported later in this meeting.

As ever, I am grateful for the efforts of our Committee in running the organisation effectively and efficiently. Joan Roberts, our Hon.Publicity and Marketing Officer with her friend John Timms spend many hours at Fairs promoting Friends. Gordon Ditchfield organises our Dock and River Cruise and the Christmas Draw, as well as being our Membership Secretary, which keeps him constantly busy throughout the year. David Hocker is our Secretary, who helps run our meetings, and Geoff Holmes produces our two Newsletters per annum. Andrew Blizzard, Terry Edgar and Bob Peers complete our active committee. We thank them I know for all their contributions - “Many hands make light work”.

Last August’s Dock and River Cruise, though later in the year than usual, was a successful sell-out, with a fine day and plenty of vessels observed in both the river and dock system. Andy Ball and Stuart Wood gave their fluent commentary and certainly enjoy their day with us. We look forward to seeing them again on Saturday 3rd August.    Please buy your tickets tonight – but they are available through Gordon Ditchfield or at each ferry terminal.

Our Website continues to operate satisfactorily, and the Events Section received 1800 “hits” during the year. We can always do with some technical help on this matter, and the Committee will be happy to consider co-opting persons who are able and willing to help our organisation.

Your Committee continues to be vigilant on the future of Mersey Ferries and hopes that the service with its anticipated investment can continue to thrive and expand.

I look forward to seeing you on our Dock and River cruise later this year.

Andrew Hodgson,
Hon.Chair, Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey.

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.

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.

Friends of the Ferries

Across the Mersey

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


                                                                                                                                                                                           April 2016

Dear Member,

Our mixed-weather Easter is over, but at least we now have longer days to enjoy, which hopefully will be warm and sunny for trips on the ferry! Use the Mersey Ferries web for the timetable.  (On this topic, please note we now have our new web-site, as above).

Since I last wrote to you, Merseytravel has published its 25 year Long Term Strategy for Mersey Ferries, accompanied by strident protests from bodies outraged by the proposal to eliminate the Woodside stage.  Following our meeting with Merseytravel’s Chair in Spring 2015, we had anticipated the publication of the Consultant’s Report, and sought a meeting last Autumn, but we were unable to discuss the contents with Merseytravel until late December – only a week before a report went to the Merseytravel Committee. The Chair did give us a personal presentation of the Report’s contents, but we only obtained a copy later.  Meanwhile, we hurriedly compiled our comments on the major issues we had, and submitted a letter to the Chair and elected members of Merseytravel for their meeting.   A copy of this letter is enclosed, and you will see our concerns relate chiefly to the economic prosperity of Wirral in the new City Region, and the opportunities for Birkenhead which lie ahead.  Closure of the Woodside stage would have an adverse effect on this.  Other issues referred to include: balancing the budget prematurely, the future of the Royal Daffodil and other heritage assets, the commuter service, and the Manchester Ship Canal cruises.  We welcomed, however, the principle of looking ahead to the future.  At its meeting, Merseytravel approved the broad 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.”  This form of words provides some comfort, but the phrasing allows more wriggle-room than we would prefer.

On the river, we have confirmation that Cammell Laird will build the new Polar Exploration vessel, to be completed in 2019 – a great coup for the firm.  Meanwhile, HMS Caroline, a C-class cruiser built by them in 1914 has been refurbished in Belfast and will be open to the public on 1st June as a museum and conference centre. She is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland (1916) and carried 325 crew at 28.5 knots, with 4” & 6” guns and torpedoes.  After 1922 she was a training and administration centre.

Joan Roberts is again busy at local fairs, and pleasingly is making steady progress after a recent fall and hip bone operation.

Our Annual Dock and River Cruise takes place on Saturday 25th June, starting at 12.00 noon from Seacombe, then

picking-up at Pier Head and Woodside. Andy Ball and Stuart Wood will give the commentary.  Please make every effort to advertise it to your friends, neighbours and local activity groups. We can send an email poster to people or organizations if you advise us. Tickets bookable below, or from the three ferry terminals. Meanwhile, I hope to see you at our AGM on Wednesday

18th May at Birkenhead YMCA, when our Malcolm McRonald, marine author and cruise-liner lecturer, will speak to us.                         


Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson

Hon. Chairman.