The ferry will not operate in the evenings until further notice from this Monday, January 10, in order to protect the service from the latest wave of Covid-19.
Nexus, the public body which owns and operates the ferry, said that stepping down to a 12-hour timetable was a temporary measure to help it manage its staff resources while the more contagious Omicron variant is in circulation.
Nexus says the change will allow the ferry team to keep the cross-Tyne route running by operating separate crews and building in more of a contingency should Covid-related sickness rates get any worse.
The changes mean that the last crossing from North Shields will be at 6pm on weekdays and on Saturdays, starting from this Monday. At present, the last departures are at 7.45pm and 8pm from South and North Shields respectively Monday to Wednesday and 10.40pm and 10.50pm Thursday to Saturday.
Nexus Customer Services Director Huw Lewis said the operator was unhappy about suspending evening services, but felt there was little choice: “Reducing services is the last thing that we want to do but these are prudent measures to take now so that we can try to protect the Shields Ferry from further Covid-19 disruption,” he said.
“By planning a small reduction in service we hope to avoid short-notice cancellations if members of the crew fall ill. This way our customers can better know what to expect and plan their journeys with confidence in the weeks ahead.
“This will be kept under review and as the situation eases off we can look into restoring the evening crossings when the time is right.
“Customers will still be able to use the service as usual during the day and we are not taking off any early morning services.”
The new Shields Ferry timetable will mean the first crossing of the day will still be at 6.45am, Monday to Saturday, but the last crossings will be at 5.45pm, from South Shields, and 6pm from North Shields.
The ferry timetable on Sundays is not changing and services will continue to operate until 6pm.
Full information can be found at www.nexus.org.uk/ferry