What's Happening About The Promised Ferry Crossing?

With further delays on reopening Hammersmith Bridge it's the only game in town

Harrods Depository from Fulham Reach
Harrods Depository from Fulham Reach. Picture: Google Streetview

Hammersmith Bridge won’t reopen anytime soon and the temporary bridge solution is as yet without funding and still being scoped out. This means the only game in town is a ferry crossing.

The good news is that government funding for a ferry procurement process is in place and a number of people are working extremely hard to make a ferry happen. The not so good news is that it seems possible that the ferry will not be operational until the latter half of June.

TfL says it is “procuring the ferry service as quickly as possible while ensuring safety is of paramount importance for the construction and operation.”

The shortlisted ferry contractors will be announced in mid-February. The winning operator will be announced in mid-March and should have their planning permission proposals in place by the start of April.

At this point, according to bridge campaign groups, the winning firm will need to seek consents and approvals with the Environment Agency and the Marine Management Organisation. Local campaigners estimate this could take 12 to 13 weeks leading to a prediction of a late June start.

Running in parallel to all this is the provision of infrastructure (pontoons/boarding areas etc.) on both sides of the river, and it will need a fair wind for infrastructure to be in place by the time the winning contractor has all the necessary permissions to operate.

TfL has confirmed that it expects the ferry to operate between 6am and 10pm on weekdays with a minimum capacity of 800 passengers per hour at peak times.

David Rowe, TfL’s Head of Major Projects Sponsorship, said, “We know that the closure of Hammersmith Bridge has caused upheaval in the lives of residents and disconnected communities, and we are working at pace to ensure a ferry is available to get people across the river as soon as possible... The exact timing for when the new service will be operational will depend on the winning bidder’s programme."

Southside Ferry Terminal plans are now available online for public comment.

A ‘white knight’ local businessman Jamie Waller has stepped in to offer the use of Harrods Wharf on the south side as a ferry terminal.

His aim has been to provide the space for a ferry operation as long as it is needed and then ultimately, once the bridge is repaired, he has plans to use the Harrods Wharf space as a permanent community asset.

While the bridge saga has been unfolding he has spent £150,000 on working with architects and consultants and has shared the potential plans with Richmond Council’s planning department three times dealing with push backs at each stage.

Visualisation of scheme at Harrods Wharf

Along the way, hopes that the architect-designed buildings could remain at the end of the ferry’s life and then be repurposed, have receded. Mr Waller has revealed that he has acceded to Richmond’s requests that the planning permission should only be for a temporary period. He has also agreed with TfL that any contract with them or the winning ferry contractors for use of the site should be for a period of five to six years.

Additionally, he will have to negotiate with the winning contractor for the costs he has incurred so far to be included in their overall costs of running the service in order to recoup the considerable amounts of money he has spent on the project.

He says “I have children that need to cross the river and I understand the need for people in Barnes to commute across once the Covid crisis has receded. For this reason, I’ve always offered the wharf and the land around it (which I also own) at no commercial benefit to me for an emergency period of 18 months. In fact Richmond are already getting the benefits of my land as I have recently allowed them to install public lighting along the Thames path and, again, have done this for free. Post that period if the ferry is still required they will need to contribute towards some form of rent.

"Let's hope that the ferry is dismantled by then and we have public access over the bridge. However, it has been a time-consuming slog to try to get this project off the ground and the back and forth with planners hasn’t been easy to say the least. It’s also disappointing to see that the great structures we have designed will probably have to come down. It seems such a waste of money and resources. I have handed a ferry terminal solution to the people of Barnes and to Richmond Council on a plate and it’s been immensely frustrating to have had to battle through so much to get things approved, but I remain committed to providing the community with safe access to a ferry to cross the Thames."

The south side ferry terminal planning documents have now been validated and are available online for comment at the Richmond Council planning portal.

Article republished with kind permission of the Barnes Village Bugle


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February 12, 2021