Plea for urgent plans to 'guarantee' that Shields Ferry will not shut down as funding fears continue

Plans for a new Shields Ferry landing at North Shields Fish Quay. Photo: Nexus.Plans for a new Shields Ferry landing at North Shields Fish Quay. Photo: Nexus.
Plans for a new Shields Ferry landing at North Shields Fish Quay. Photo: Nexus.
Leaders on either side of the Tyne have been urged to come up with emergency plans to guarantee that the Shields Ferry will not be shut down.

There have been fears for some time about the future of the famous river crossing, with its existing north landing expected to deteriorate into an unusable condition by 2025.

Transport chiefs are keen to build a new jetty closer to the North Shields Fish Quay, but have struggled to find the money to pay for a project which is now expected to cost almost £13million.

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A previous funding deal for the scheme collapsed in 2021 and a bid for Levelling Up Fund cash also failed earlier this year, with bosses now trying to convince the Government to approve an early release of some money due to come to the North East under the region’s £4billion devolution deal.

Amid the continued uncertainty, Green Party members in North and South Tyneside have united in a call to save the ferry from closure – something they warn would “send shockwaves across Tyneside”.

They have called on local councils to “urgently put a plan in place to guarantee the service, with or without government investment” and claimed that the known problems with the existing north jetty have “not been matched with the urgency required”.

Alan Steele, a Green Party campaigner in North Tyneside, said: “We are very concerned that such a vital transport link is now in jeopardy and that local politicians have stated that if the ferry service is lost it will never return. It seems that plans for moving the ferry landing downstream have been in the offing for several years now, and that we have been given false reassurance from Nexus and others, and we urge all involved to get around the table to sort this mess out.

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“We know that we can’t rely on the Government to give funding and so there must be a local solution available. We simply cannot lose the ferry service and must get this sorted with or without Government funding.”

Green councillor David Francis, leader of South Tyneside’s opposition party, called the ferry a “lifeline for people on both sides of the river” and said its loss would “potentially devastate an already struggling local economy”.

Recent figures showed that passengers made more than 383,000 trips on the ferry in 2022/23, significantly more than had been expected as it enjoyed a major boost in popularity.

It had been hoped that the new ferry landing would be built using money from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, but operator Nexus lost that funding as it could not meet a “strict” timescale which would have required the construction works to be completed by spring 2022.

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The proposal was then included as part of a Levelling Up Fund bid for a wider regeneration of North Shields, which was unsuccessful, and regional transport officials are now hoping that the Department for Transport will agree to release money from a pot known as the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS).

Huw Lewis, customer services director at Nexus, said that the cost of the ferry landing project was “beyond the means of local councils”.

He added: “The North Shields jetty dates from before the Second World War, even if the landing extending from it is more recent. A structure of that age becomes steadily more costly to maintain and is predicted to reach the end of its life in 2025, so we urgently need funding to replace it.

“The short-term nature of some Government grant opportunities can make them difficult to apply for, and this is a challenge for many public bodies not least when it comes to a maritime project this complex. We have pushed forward in the last four years with ground investigations, tidal studies, navigational assessments, commercial negotiations and detailed engineering designs all leading to a full planning application for a new landing despite not having the assurance of external funds to support this work.

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“We are now in negotiation with the Department for Transport to unlock funding from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement with the support of all the local authorities in the region, who recognise the role the Shields Ferry plays in the local community and local economy. Building a new landing at the Fish Quay will not only save this iconic transport link but give it a bright future at the heart of the visitor and leisure market on both sides of the Tyne.”

North Tyneside’s deputy mayor, Carl Johnson, said that the council was “absolutely committed to working with Nexus and other partners to relocate the ferry terminal further along the Fish Quay, securing its future as a vital service, further enhancing our work in North Shields and unlocking its potential as a vibrant, cultural destination”.

Fellow Labour councillor Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth and transport at South Tyneside Council, added: “We recognise the importance of the Shields ferry and the crucial role it plays in the commercial, cultural and leisure activities for both residents and visitors to our borough. We will continue to support Nexus and North Tyneside Council in any ongoing funding applications where appropriate.”