FERRY passengers in South Tyneside are being left high and dry after travel bosses opted to hire out their only vessel, hitting services this weekend.
The Pride of the Tyne has broken down and, her sister boat – Spirit of the Tyne – will be used for private hire events.
Festival-goers could also be left stranded next weekend when The Mouth of the Tyne festival in North Tyneside, featuring stars including The Human League, James Morrison and The Wonder Stuff, takes place between July 12 and 14.
Hundreds of people are expected at the event at Tynemouth Priory and Castle. Ferry bosses say those wanting to travel to North Tyneside to get to the gigs won’t be able to cross the river on the Friday night of the festival.
This weekend, the ferry will be out of commission tonight from 6pm and tomorrow from 5pm.
Metro owner Nexus, which manages the ferry, says the decision to cancel the public service was tough, but a bus service will be in its place. However, South Tyneside UKIP councillor, George Elsom, leader of the opposition on South Tyneside Council, says the decision is “utterly disgraceful”.
He said: “The Mouth of the Tyne is a well-attended event and is very popular with South Tynesiders, many of whom will want to pop across on the ferry.
“It cuts out all the hassle of having to get on the Metro and travel to Newcastle and then via the coast. Not only is it a much longer journey, it is also much more expensive.
“This is an utterly disgraceful decision by transport bosses which will cause a great amount of disruption.
“Council taxpayers deserve better than this. Whoever made this decision should have an immediate rethink.”
The Pride of the Tyne ferry is in a dry dock with a broken propulsion unit.
Nexus bosses say they had hoped it would have returned to service by now, but are still waiting for a part to arrive from Germany.
It is understood announcements were made to passengers at short notice because bosses were still hoping the Pride of the Tyne would be fixed in time. Shields Ferry manager Carol Timlin said the service relies on income from private bookings to help pay for the public service.
She added: “We apologise to our customers for the disruption. We had to take the difficult decision to withdraw some crossings due to one of our ferries developing a technical fault.
“With the Pride of the Tyne out of action, we have only had the Spirit of the Tyne to cover our busy summer programme that includes the scheduled half-hourly Tyne crossing and various private hire events.
“Regrettably, we can’t cover all of our commitments and have had to review each day’s activities on a case by case basis. On some occasions, that has led to a replacement bus service being provided to cover evening crossings. I am sorry if anyone is inconvenienced.”
A spokesman for North Tyneside Council, which organises the Mouth of the Tyne festival, said: “We are aware of the unexpected technical problem with the ferry and have been reassured by Nexus that alternative transport will be provided, if needed, so people can still enjoy the Mouth of the Tyne Festival.”