Residents of Torpoint have been left feeling frustrated as the ferries continue to run late on both sides of the Tamar river.
by Kasia Evans
The Torpoint Ferry is the UK’s busiest inland waterway ferry crossing. The 8,000 vehicles and 1500 pedestrians relying on the crossing each day are provided with a 24 hour service throughout the year.
But currently, with only two working ferries, both running at reduced speed this week, many drivers who are employed or study in Plymouth and surrounding areas have been forced to use the Tamar Bridge to get to work, a half hour drive from the town, rather than face the long waiting times on the Torpoint side of the river. At times yesterday, only one ferry was in service.
However, residents who take the ferry on foot don’t have the option to use the bridge, so are therefore forced to wait, without shelter, for up to 45 minutes for the ferry to arrive, causing many to be late for work, college and university.
Torpoint has no police station or hospital in the town and the ferry is vital for ambulance services to get to Derriford quickly.
A large number of employees of Babcock international, Plymouth Dockyards leading marine engineering company, travel from Torpoint via the ferry everyday. With the dockyard lying just beside the ferry lanes, most workers would choose to walk the short distance onto the ferry and off the other side to the main gates. It seems bizarre that employees should have to travel the hour long journey over the bridge, by car, or wait in the cold and wet for an hour just to get to work on time. Once, this journey would have taken 20-30 minutes by foot.
Sam, aged 23, is an apprentice of the firm in his final year. He expresses concern with the amount of workers effected, and is worried about what the employers think. The unreliability of the ferry has made many of the Torpoint workers leave home an hour earlier than usual.
“I often work different shift patterns so I am getting the ferry at all different times of the day and night. When I walk to work in the mornings I can sometimes be up 20 minutes late due to the ferries, and in the evenings I never get home on time anymore. The whole thing makes me feel stressed, even though I’ve sort of become used to it now. In general it makes things much more difficult than they need to be.
It seems crazy to me that MPs like Sheryll Murray haven’t addressed the situation, at least acknowledged it, as this makes up a large part of her constituency”
An elderly member of the community, who travels to Plymouth often via the Citybus, said she felt ‘cut-off’. She explained how the lack of ambulances in the Torpoint and surrounding areas such as Milbrook and St.John already worries her, so with the added stress of the ferries not running properly, she feels as though the town is being forgotten by those who should be representing it and helping to solve these problems.
She added that as a young girl in the Second World War, she was aware of a foot ferry still going across the river for passengers even while air-raid sirens sounded; which for her made the whole modern-day ordeal with the ferries particularly disheartening.
Abuse towards the ferry crew has increased too. Speaking to a younger member of the ferry committee about the issue this week he described the problem first-hand, giving an outline of what exactly is causing the chaos and how he is dealing with it:
“The two ferries that are currently in service are running at reduced speed, due to not having the third ferry back in service to repair the other two.
Being a Torpoint resident myself, I understand that at the moment, the ferries are frustrating for the public- so I try not to be confrontational when getting the odd horrible look or muttering complaints. I try to let things like that go over my head and give the situation time to calm itself down.”
The Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry are a joint undertaking of Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council. A governing Committee comprising of Councillors from both Authorities is overseen by the Councils of Plymouth and Cornwall.
The crossings are operated together as a single business, entirely self-financed through tolls charged which pay for the operation, maintenance and improvement of both crossings. There is no subsidy from either the parent authorities or central government.
The service’s third ferry is currently behind schedule to be returned to service following maintenance work at A&P, Falmouth. It has been out of service since mid September. It is now back in Torpoint but further defects were identified
Tamar crossing s said in a social media post yesterday:
“May we firstly apologise for any inconvenience that the reduced service is causing you, and assure you that we are working extremely hard to get the ferries back into service.
We appear to have identified the defect on the drive system on the PLYM and effected a repair. The next steps in the process will be to remove the additional lengths of chain that we had to put in as part of the process of the ferries return from Falmouth and then conduct some test runs.
Unfortunately, we are now being held up by the weather as it is both impossible to undertake the chain work in the current conditions, and it is unsafe to conduct any slinging operations with the strength of wind that we are experiencing at the moment.
Please be assured that we will be taking every opportunity available to progress getting PLYM back into service.”
The currently planned periods for the other two ferries are :
TAMAR II – mid April 2019 to mid May 2019
LYNHER II – mid April 2020 to mid May 2020