Commuter Ferries

Discussion in 'Other Public Transport' started by markymark2000, 9 Oct 2019.

  1. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    I quite agree - but as a 'sound bite' I suppose it's easier for them to say 'nationalised' rather than 'brought back into local authority control'.

    The Free Ferry only came about because for some strange historical reason the Borough of Woolwich was the only London borough ever to have any land on both sides of the river, and therefore the Metropolitan Board of Works was able to set it up with far fewer problems, only having to deal with Woolwich Borough Council, and not two separate boroughs!
     
  2. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    Bit of local knowledge here, but the Woolwich Ferry, both its provision and the fact it is free, is actually stipulated in an Act of Parliament, and it will take another Act to make things any different - and of course nobody is prepared to push that through. It was in one of the original Metropolitan Works acts, predecessor to LCC, GLC, Mayor, etc, and the responsibility has just been passed along over the years. TfL have got it at the moment. They can't just decide to close it or charge for it.

    It is indeed just a contract operation. It was subcontracted in GLC days to Greenwich Council, then TfL gave it to a commercial marine contractor. It is totally a union shop and has some very arcane practices, the reduction from 3 vessels to 2 has been on its own a real issue.
     
  3. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    To add to Taunton's knowledgeable post, it was the Metropolitan Board of Works (Various Powers) Act of 1885 under which the Free Ferry was set up; free because the MBW had recently removed tolls from various bridges in London.

    In the days of the steam-powered ferries there were 4 boats, one of which would be on the 'Gridiron' on the north side of the river undergoing maintenance, leaving three boats to maintain the service in rush hours, two outside the rush hours and usually just one on Sundays. The north-bound ferry traffic had to queue in Powis Street and Hare Street, the two main shopping roads of Woolwich.

    The introduction of three diesel-powered boats in 1963, particularly with their larger vehicle decks, led eventually to the new end-loading/unloading ramps, a dual carriageway cutting out ferry traffic from the town centre with an off-road waiting area at the riverside. Two boats would be in use with the third being maintained on a new grid-iron (now on the south side of the river).

    I moved away from Woolwich in 1977 and only gave up occasional visits crossing on the ferry after all my elderly relatives had died or moved from the area.

    There have been many plans over the years to build a bridge across the river to replace the ferry. In the early 1950s I was shown a short length of road at the end of the Royal Artillery barracks and told it was the start of a bridge approach road whose building was abandoned when WW2 came along! (This bit of road disappeared when the new dual carriageway was built in the 1960s.)
     
    Last edited: 26 Mar 2020 at 10:23
  4. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I remember the three boat service in the peaks, with the 'third' boat hovering in mid Thames waiting for whichever pier it was heading for to become free, with various other boats and (mostly) barges manoeuvering past them, giving way of course as the ferry had precedence. It was best viewed from the North Woolwich side, and the unmistakeable strong tarry smell is still with me! If you fell in there, I honestly think you'd not have had a chance.
     
  5. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    I know it being free of charge was incorporated into the Act that set it up, but if it had ever been fully nationalised a new Act could have been brought in and the old one repealed.
     
  6. paul1609

    paul1609 Established Member

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    For many years North Woolwich and Part of Beckton were in the County of Kent. We have long since give up claims on it (and if the truth be known would be quite happy to loose Dartford as well) but South London still has a movement for the reunification of Woolwich called SLAG; https://deserter.co.uk/2016/11/reclaim-north-woolwich/
     
  7. Busaholic

    Busaholic Established Member

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    The only artwork I remember in my boyhood house for about fourteen years in Eltham was a vast painting, several feet wide, entitled 'The North Prospect of Woolwich in the County of Kent' which I would imagine was from around 1800. Unlike me, my father wasn't born in the borough but he seemed to have an affinity to it which he passed on to me, in absentia though I've been for so long. It is unlike anywhere else in London, certainly, by a long distance, though not all the differences are good!
     

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