20 year vision for
Mersey Ferries to go to Merseytravel Committee
A 20 year vision for the Mersey
Ferries, aiming to secure their future for generations to come, will be put
to the Merseytravel Committee for approval in January 2016.
The strategy is centred around bringing down the cost of the Mersey Ferries
to the public purse, while building on their commercial potential, ensuring
they are sustainable well into the future. It suggests a focus on growing
the local leisure market and highlights some far reaching proposals.
Proposals include the procurement of at least one new vessel, better suited
to the needs of the leisure and event market; resources focussed into one
Wirral landing stage with the closure of the other, and a later start to the
commuter service to allow the ferry to be docked overnight to significantly
reduce operational costs.
While endorsement will be sought for the overall strategy in January,
Members will not be taking any decisions on any of the proposals outlined at
that stage. These will be presented to Members at future meetings with
detailed evidence to support each approach, so informed decisions can be
While their public subsidy for operational costs has been reduced by around
£1m over the past four years through such measures as taking The Royal
Daffodil out of service and increasing leisure sailings, the Mersey Ferries
still have to be subsidised by around £1.5m a year for day-to-day costs.
In addition, an average of around just under £2.5m a year of public money
has been spent on capital programmes over the past 6 years including
investment in maintaining the current Vessels and a new Pier Head Landing
These costs are despite them being the most popular paid for attraction on
The strategy recognises that fundamental changes are needed to tackle
increasing costs and the challenges that come with an aging fleet; now
approaching 60 years old; and to go some way to reversing the trend of
falling passenger numbers.
Over a number of decades the market has changed from a buoyant cross river
1 to 1 focussed on leisure sailings, as people choose the Mersey Tunnels
or rail to 'short hop' across the water.
It is intended that the strategy will be reviewed every 2 or 3 years
to ensure that it remains current and takes into accounts developments and
potential opportunities in the wider Liverpool City Region such as through
Wirral and Liverpool Waters.
Said Gary Evans, Merseytravel's head of customer delivery:- "Our
success in winning Ferry Operator of the Year at the National Transport
Awards recognised the strides we have taken in making the Mersey Ferries a
more efficient operation, whilst continuing to get customers on board.
It also recognised us making the most of opportunities, from the key role
the ferries played in welcoming Cunard's Three Queens to the launch of the
'Dazzle Ferry' an art and history project of national significance. Should
Members approve the strategy, there will be some exciting decisions for them
to take and some difficult ones. However, to secure the Mersey Ferries for
future generations to enjoy we have to think big and differently. Efficiency
has to go hand in hand with looking at the wider economic benefits the
Mersey Ferries bring to the Liverpool City Region; looking at how we can
build passenger numbers and their commercial potential."
Some of the key recommendations outlined in the strategy:-
► An overall focus on building and growing the Mersey Ferries' leisure
market, not least as demand for cross river services continues to decline
and the number of leisure passengers goes up.
Moving towards a new fleet of Vessels; recognising that the current Vessels
are over 50 years old and that introducing new ones would support a
reduction in operational costs. New vessels would also mean that the leisure
market could be better catered for. The existing ferries were built for
largely 'short hop', cross river journeys. It is hoped that the names of the
Vessels can be retained.
Recognising the major investment needed in the terminals and landing stages
over the next 5 years, by looking to review the terminals with the
possibility of moving from 3 terminals to 2.
► Considering retaining one of the existing vessels and operating it in the
Manchester Ship canal only, therefore offering canal style cruises that are
not tide dependent outside of peak times.
Considering changes to the commuter service which would remove the need to
have the vessel on the river overnight; including starting later.
Looking to increase ferry presence on the river with a second vessel during
peak times such as school holidays. Moving from an hourly river explorer to
maybe every 30 minutes.