‘Shoddy’ Woolwich Ferry closed for two weeks for more upgrade works

Woolwich Ferry
The new ferries have been blighted by technical problems since they were introduced three years ago

The Woolwich Ferry will close tomorrow until early March as Transport for London attempts to make the troubled river crossing more reliable.

Services will finish on Friday morning at 10.30am and not resume again until 6am on Monday 6 March. The announcement was only made on Thursday morning, bringing forward a previously-announced closure date by a day.

The ferry has been plagued by difficulties and closures since two new boats, which cost £10 million each, were brought into service three years ago. In November 2019 Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, admitted that TfL had “dropped the ball“ and the new vessels “aren’t good enough”.

Last month, the deputy leader of Greenwich Council said the current ferry service was “very shoddy”.

The new boats replaced the three vessels which had plied the route since 1963. They were billed as being more energy-efficient than their predecessors, but the new technology used to dock the ferries regularly failed.

Services have also regularly been hit by strike action over pay and working conditions.

Last month the ferry was cut back to a one-boat, weekday-only service in an attempt to make the service more reliable for the freight traffic that relies on the crossing, with a second boat added when available.

TfL said today that the latest closure “will enable key engineering works and upgrades to take place, such as the installation of a new pontoon guiderail and works on the north and south operational docking areas to support the long-term reliability of the ferry service”. Work will also take place to widen the area where traffic waits to board the boats.

Tricia Ashton, TfL’s director of rail and sponsored services, said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers from the planned closure of the Woolwich Ferry. During the closure, we will be working hard on key engineering works and upgrades that will enhance the ferry’s service and long-term reliability. We advise people to use alternative crossings and plan their journeys before they travel while the ferry is closed.”

Last month a local resident, Paul Billington, raised the cut-back ferry service at a meeting of Greenwich Council. The borough’s deputy leader, Averil Lekau, said the town hall had not been consulted on the changes, and that she had told Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, that the service “was not good enough”.

She added: “I’m very frustrated with things that are going on at the ferry. It impacts on traffic a long way away. It’s very shoddy.”

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