2024 Dock and River Cruise Saturday 22nd June. For details see Future Events section below.

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On 5th December 2023 the City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram, made the welcome announcement that a contract had been signed with Cammell Laird to construct a new vessel for Mersey Ferries. Details of the design specification, contractors and date for completion have not been finalised. Additionally the Snowdrop (formerly Woodchurch) is being extensively refurbished in stages to extend its life.

Meanwhile, part of the Government’s redevelopment funds for the Woodside area have been ring-fenced for a new stage at the Woodside Terminal, and design work has commenced. Friends of the Ferries anticipates learning more about these two schemes, in particular their programming, at a scheduled meeting with Merseytravel in April 2024.


Friends of the Ferries

across the Mersey

Chief Executive, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority,

Dear Katherine Fairclough, 14th July 2023


I am writing to you on behalf of our organisation (circa 400 members) concerning the withdrawal of Ferry services from Woodside. At our recent AGM, members expressed their dismay at this action, and asked me to seek clarification from you about the current situation.

We have understood for some time that major funding for a replacement landing stage at Woodside has been made available through the Government’s Town Centre grants, and, supplemented by Combined Authority contributions, is adequately resourced and effectively ring-fenced. Past press releases have indicated that initial design work has been commissioned, and there is now a target date for completion of December 2024.

This means that the Woodside Ferry service will not have been available for about two years. It will be particularly detrimental to Birkenhead’s tourist offer of -

the listed Woodside Terminal building; the Priory; the Wirral Transport Museum; the Grade 1 listed buildings which form Hamilton Square; and the listed Birkenhead Park. In our view, Birkenhead needs to be firmly linked to the burgeoning Liverpool tourist industry across the river.

Meanwhile, we have no information on the structural condition of the existing Woodside stage (built 1985) which has been scheduled for examination at this time. The present closure, we are told, is because the appearance of the stage does not meet Mersey Ferries’ aesthetic standards. We disagree with this analysis, and believe that the Woodside ferry service should be re-instated now and kept in operation except while the landing stage is actually being replaced.

Friends of the Ferries was founded in 1977 by the public response to a clause in a Bill submitted to Parliament by the MPTE. This sought the cancelation of the Royal Charter which requires a Woodside Ferry service to be provided. The clause was withdrawn after a 2 hour Parliamentary debate on that specific matter!

You can therefore understand our concerns about the above turn of events.

We would thus be grateful if you could explain more fully the rationale behind the closure of the Woodside Terminal at this time; inform us of the structural condition of the stage; and confirm the design and build programme for the new works. We would appreciate receiving links to relevant reports.

I am sending a courtesy copy of this letter to Gary Evans, with whom we have regular and fruitful contact about Mersey Ferries’ activities.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Hodgson, Chair, Friends of the Ferries, 39, South Parade, West Kirby.

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Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey


26th June 2023 at the YMCA 7.30pm

Good evening. Although it is four years since we last met because of Covid, I anticipate that through our twice-yearly Newsletters and Chair’s letters you feel the Committee has kept you updated on the Mersey Ferries’ situation during this period.

What a roller-coaster ride we have had! At our 2019 AGM, I reported that we had been invited by Mersey Ferries in August 2018 to examine their concept plan for a new vessel - perhaps even two – with a first delivery maybe in 2021. On the advice of London consultants, initial funding by Merseytravel was agreed, and we optimistically thought the prospects of safeguarding the future service were much brighter. However, cost estimates fell significantly short of those submitted by the tenderers. Design changes and negotiations, however, failed to match the funding available and the outlook remained bleak. More recently, in November 2022, the City Region Combined Authority issued a press statement by the Mayor Steve Rotheram

re-iterating robust support for a future ferry service, indicating that discussions with ship-builders were in progress for one vessel, but that the Snowdrop would be refurbished. We understand that phased refurbishment work has already commenced.

We will continue to lobby for a new vessel design which can adequately cope with the rigours of the River Mersey.

Meanwhile, in terms of fixed infrastructure, the Seacombe stage and terminal has been very substantially upgraded, and plans for a new Woodside stage (or major refurbishment) are being drawn up, the scheme to be basically funded by committed Government Town Centre redevelopment grants. These are very significant investments and will surely make a closure of the ferry service less likely. However, we have’nt yet seen any plans for the Woodside Stage, and are dismayed to find that in the interim it has been closed. We are told this is because it is too shabby, and anyway a Wirral service to the new Seacombe terminal is being offered! A new stage is envisaged by late 2024 – ie meaning two years of closure. Many members will recall that the proposed rescinding by Parliament in 1977 of the Royal Charter requiring the provision of a service to Woodside was the spark that led to the formation of Friends of the Ferries. We may wish to discuss this matter later this evening.

A more minor, but recent, matter of concern relates to the withdrawal of free parking at Seacombe for those who do not hold commuter tickets for multiple journeys. This arises from the opening of the new “Eureka!” exhibition centre which now operates the car parks there instead of Merseytravel. It now wishes to make a charge as well as ensuring spaces are available for their customers. That’s all very well, but it erodes Merseytravel’s principles in providing free parking at public transport nodes. No restrictions apply to train passengers who park at Wirral railway station car parks!

On a positive note, Mersey Ferries are introducing additional evening dance and music cruises in response to current demands – shades of the 1951 Royal Iris!

Administratively, our membership is holding up around the 450 mark, and our Christmas Draw remains popular. We have now made the arrangements to resume our annual Dock and River Cruise (on 2nd September this year), and will update our website accordingly – I look forward to seeing you aboard on the trip. Financially, our position remains satisfactory. Since the last AGM, the annual accounts have been included with Geoff Holmes’ Newsletters, and our Hon. Treasurer Malcolm McRonald will shortly discuss the accounts for the year ending 31st March 2023 which you have just received in the recent mailing. We have good communication with Mersey Ferries through Gary Evans, who is Assistant Director for Customer Delivery, Merseytravel, and is very contactable. He has a range of responsibilities which include specific involvement with Mersey Ferries. However, he has of course to follow the party line and can only inform us of “official” policy!

We are fortunate to have an experienced, long-standing Committee to rely on. However, at present, Joan Roberts is convalescing in a care home where her health is improving following hospitalisation after falling. David Hocker has now moved to the Stranraer area to be nearer relatives. We would be happy to discuss with members their co-option to the Committee. Special thanks meanwhile must be given to Gordon Ditchfield whom we keep fully occupied all year around as Membership Secretary and organiser of both the Draw and the Cruise!

So, although many uncertainties remain concerning major investments and other engineering work, particularly in the light of inflation and public purse constraints, the political will to support the Mersey Ferries and its economic benefits to the locality and the City Region remain strong. We’ll see what the next 12 months brings!

Andrew Hodgson, Chairman, Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey

26th June 2023.

Friends of the Ferries Across the Mersey
will be held on Monday 26th June 2023 at the YMCA, Whetstone Lane, Birkenhead at 7.30pm.

1. Apologies for absence.
2. Minutes of the Forty-second Annual General Meeting (13.5.19.).
3. Hon. Chairman’s Report.
4. Hon. Treasurer’s Report, including accounts for 2020, 2021, 2022.
5. Adoption of the Accounts for the year ending March 31st 2023.

6. Election of Members to the Management Committee:
(In accordance with the Constitution, Article 4b, five Members of the
Management Committee shall retire by seniority of election each year,
this number not to include more than two of the five elected Officers).
The following members are eligible for election, and are willing to
Andrew Blizard, Terry Edgar, Geoff Holmes, Malcolm McRonald, Bob Peers

. 7. Election of Officers to the Society:
(In accordance with Article 4c, all Officers retire):
Andrew Hodgson, Hon. Chairman; Vacant Post, Hon. Secretary;
Malcolm McRonald, Hon. Treasurer; Joan Roberts, Hon. Publicity and
Marketing Officer; and Gordon Ditchfield, Hon. Membership Secretary.

8. Appointment of Reporting Accountants.
9. Any Other Business.

Members wishing to assist the Committee may be co-opted in the first instance.

There will be a break for light refreshments at approximately 8.15pm., after which
Malcolm McRonald (maritime author and cruise-liner lecturer) will talk about
“Fred Olsen: From the North Sea to the World”.
Andrew Hodgson, Hon. Chairman.

The AGM venue is about 100 metres from the junction of Whetstone Lane with Borough
Road (bus stops nearby). Highway parking adjacent to the YMCA.

To: Friends of the Ferries, c/o 7 Foxcovers Road Bebington Wirral CH63 3EQ
I enclose payment to Friends of the Ferries for my own subscription for 2023/2014 @ £2.00
and ........... subscriptions for other members (please list). @ £2.00

From (Name and Address)…………………………………….. ……………. … Total enclosed £……..
…………….. ……..……………………….............................................................. Postcode……………..
Email …………………………………… (Subscription Receipts will be sent with the November Newsletter)

Friends of the Ferries across the Mersey conforms with the Data Protection Act. This notice informs you that the organization holds your name and address, and also your telephone number and email address (if you have provided these). This information will be solely used for the purposes of us communicating with you. Friends of the Ferries does not share this information with any other person or organization. If you wish us to delete any personal data please inform the Membership Secretary.

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