BY YANN TEAR
Transport for London (TfL) is confident the Woolwich Ferry will reopen for business next month – but will not commit to a hard and fast date.
That is because they say they still need to properly road-test new high-tech mooring systems before allowing vehicles to resume crossing the Thames between Woolwich and North Woolwich.
The free ferry crossing – established in the late 1880s – was suspended on October 6 in order to create new docking berths.
They will allow two new vessels to dock using an electro-magnetic mechanism. The old methods of conveying about two million passengers a year relied on ropes and pulleys.
The project is costing an estimated £37million – with at least £20million of that going on the new ships.
The service was supposed to be up and running again by the end of December, but there have been teething problems with the tests. TfL believes the wait will be worth it.
The new vessels will have more space, more room for bicycles and use a quieter, low-emission engine.
A TfL spokesman said: “It has taken slightly longer than expected to test out the new system and rather than over-promise and under-deliver, we have not set a new operating date. But we are confident it will be next month.”
The boats are called the Ben Woollacott, after a former deckhand who died working on the ferry, and the Dame Vera Lynn, after the legendary singer.
The new vessels offer 14 per cent more space for passengers and vehicles – the boats will be able to carry 150 passengers, with a total of 210 metres available for vehicles across four lanes.
They have step-free access and claim to be more stable to board and alight – and therefore safer – because of the new magnetic docking system.
The new boats also meet London’s Low Emission Zone standards because they use a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system, making them more fuel-efficient, quieter and produce fewer emissions.
During the disruption, drivers are having to use alternative crossings and tunnels, although the Woolwich Foot Tunnel has remained open for foot passengers and cyclists.