Ferry's future in limbo

The vital Fleetwood to Knott End ferry is likely to be in limbo and out of action for weeks, quashing initial hopes it would be resuming this week.

Friday, 2nd March 2018, 1:35 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd March 2018, 1:40 pm
Angela Norris (left) and Claire Rimmer-Quaid launched a petition last year to save the Fleetwood To Knott End Ferry and are still concerned about it.

But hopes remain that it may be able to return by Easter.

Those who use the ferry have been left confused by what is happening after the issue became more complicated in the last few weeks.

As the situation currently stands, the vessel is laid up while important repair work is carried out on both sides of the slipway and dredging of the channel gets underway.

And in the meantime Wyre and Lancashire County are still in the “tender process” after a deal to clinch an eight year contract with one applicant dramatically collapsed at the start of this month.

It is not known if the council is negotiating with one of the other applicants or is putting the contract out to tender again.

This week Tony Cowell, skipper of the ferry boat Wyre Rose, said: “I’m not able to discuss anything to do with contract negotiations but as the skipper I am hopeful we will be ready to resume by the start of Easter, when things start to get busier.

“We cannot do anything anyway until the slipway work is finalised, because that it vital for the health and safety of passengers, and the dredging needs finishing as well.”

The service was run for 13 years by Fleetwood-based Wyre Marine but the contract was awarded to another applicant in January, after going out to tender, before that operator unexpectedly pulled out.

It leaves Wyre back at the drawing board with further contract negotiations, along with funding partner Lancashire County Council.

Wyre reiterated this week: “The tender process has not yet concluded. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment.”

In mid-January it appeared that a long period of uncertainty over the ferry was over.

County Hall agreed to contribute to the running of the ferry service on a 50/50 basis with Wyre Council for the first four years, after which the ferry would be self-sustaining.

County was to provide the ferry to the successful supplier under a mortgage arrangement whereby the vessel would become the responsibility of the operator and its ownership would transfer to them in full at the end of the eight year contract period.

But after the eight year contract fell through, Wyre’s Labour group was critical of the way the issue had been handled by the Conservative-led councils.

Knott End resident Claire Rimmer-Quaid, who launched a campaign to save the under-threat ferry last year, said: “The ferry is vital to Fleetwood and Knott End, especially for residents in Over Wyre.

“We have heard we are to lose our Service 24 bus on Sundays, so we will be cut off.

“We have no idea what is going with the ferry at the moment.”

The ferry issue is also at the heart of a complaint by the Labour group against the borough council, amidst claims the authority breached strict ruled before a by-election.

Members are calling for the Knott End and Preesall election result in January to be declared null and void and the election to be held again.

The councillors say Wyre ignored ‘purdah’ rules by issuing a news release just prior to the by-election which they believe may have been seen to favour successful Conservative candidate Peter Cartridge at the expense of Labour rival Nic Fogg.

They say that by publicising the Tory-led council’s success in arranging the new eight year contract for the under-threat Knott End ferry, it could have boosted the Tory candidate.

Labour argues that Wyre rushed through the good news story, before the ferry contract was finalised, so it would be in time to give the Tory candidate a boost.

The complaint is being dealt with by Wyre’s monitoring officer.