Shields Ferry 'here to stay' - leaders pledge to keep River Tyne crossing between North and South Shields
The Shields Ferry is here to stay – that’s the promise to passengers as bosses push to secure desperately needed funding to secure the service’s future.
Major fears have surrounded the future of the historic river crossing between North and South Shields due to the rapidly deteriorating condition of its north landing.
A bid was launched to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) earlier this year to pay for the building of a new jetty nearer the North Shields Fish Quay, with warnings that the ferry would have to be shut down unless the project can be funded and built by 2025.
It was reported by the Financial Times this week that the second round of the Government’s flagship investment programme to boost struggling areas has been delayed again until January.
Despite that setback, which causes prolonged doubt over a range of North East funding bids, including for the new Gateshead Quayside arena, chiefs at Nexus are now insistent that they will not be abandoning the Shields Ferry regardless of what happens with the LUF.
Managing director Martin Kearney said: “I am a bit disappointed but probably not surprised [at the delay]. We are working very closely with DfT and we know what is going on down there and what reviews are taking place.
“I am disappointed because I am desperate for the finance for the ferry landing, as is the region. I am going to be the one that stops operating the ferry? Absolutely not."
However, Mr Kearney is keeping potential ‘Plan B’ options under wraps for now.
“Of course we have options. That ferry is something that is here to stay.
“From Nexus’ and a personal point of view, our ferry service is really important to us and the region. We have got other options that we are exploring in the background, but nothing is easy at this point because we need the finance coming in to procure and make things happen.”
Proposals for a new north landing closer to the Fish Quay have been in the works for several years, but were dealt a massive blow last summer when the majority of its funding collapsed.
Nexus has warned previously that the transport link could be lost without a new backer being found, potentially ending a centuries-old tradition of people being carried across the Tyne by boat.
But Mr Kearney struck a far more hopeful tone in an interview this week, adding: “Let’s have some optimism… I am optimistic that there is a solution here.”
The famous river crossing is used by around 400,000 people a year and ferries are thought to have carried people across the Tyne for at least 750 years.
The entire landing project had been expected to cost £8.8million, though that was before the current inflation crisis. Nexus had previously agreed to spend £3.2m of its own money on the scheme, but lost £5.6m of promised support from the Government’s Getting Building Fund because it could not meet “strict” time pressures attached to the grant.