Posted: 23.02.21 at 15:54 by Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter
The Hammersmith Bridge ferry service is unlikely to be up and running before the summer, Transport for London has announced.
TfL also said today (Tuesday, February 23) it is “expected” that the service will charge passengers £1.55 ride.
The news comes after the government confirmed that all school children will return to classrooms on March 8, affecting the 178 children in Richmond who attend community schools and academies on the other side of the river in Hammersmith and Fulham.
The long-awaited ferry service has been in the pipeline since autumn 2020, after Hammersmith Bridge closed to pedestrians and cyclists in August when cracks in its pedestals widened.
This left thousands of residents, particularly in Richmond, needing to take alternative routes via Chiswick and Putney to reach schools or hospitals in West London.
It had repeatedly been reported by TfL, and the Government’s Hammersmith Bridge Task Force, that a ferry service could be up and running by spring, although no particular month or date was given.
But today TfL has said the opening of the service will be delayed due to requests for “additional time” made by ferry companies who are bidding for the contract.
“Additional time requested by some of the firms taking part in the procurement process to ensure a high quality submission, means it is unlikely that the ferry will begin operating before the summer,” a statement from TfL said.
TfL also said two companies – City Cruises and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers – had submitted “detailed bids” for the service.
It said the ferry service would run between 6am and 10pm on weekdays with shorter hours on weekends.
“The service is expected to have a minimum capacity of around 800 passengers per hour at peak times,” TfL said.
Meanwhile, details have yet to emerge of where a ferry terminal could be set up on the north bank of the Thames.
On the south bank, a planning application has been submitted to Richmond Council to create a terminal at the disused Harrods Wharf, about 0.25 miles south of Hammersmith Bridge.
Hundreds of public comments have been submitted about the planning application, which was lodged in January by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS) and entrepreneur and philanthropist Jamie Waller.
It is not clear when this planning application will be decided by Richmond Council’s planning committee.
Responding to TfL’s latest update on the delayed ferry service, Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney said: “News that the replacement ferry service will include a fare is a tough pill to swallow for residents who have had their lives’ severely impacted by the bridge’s closure.
“However, this must not distract from the fact that the Taskforce ruled out plans for a temporary walking and cycling bridge at an early stage and have consistently refused the central government funding to pay for stabilisation works that would have allowed pedestrian access. Instead they opted for a ferry service that looks set to arrive sometime in summer and which people will be charged to use. It is a failure of national transport policy and a complete dereliction of duty to the thousands of people who rely on Hammersmith Bridge to travel.
“For a saga that has been riddled with delay and postponement, I nonetheless welcome the encouraging news that two potential ferry operators have been shortlisted. It is good to see some progress at last.”