IMG 2495fi 800x425 - Woolwich Ferry Finale #2

The second part covering the last days of the Woolwich Ferry following the special feature I did on Sunday. In this we see the ferry at work, the run up to the final night, the very last crossings, and some post-closure scenes. This will be the last of the posts on the Woolwich ferry, at least until the new boats arrive.

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This (and the feature image) were taken a couple of days earlier. This is Ernest Bevin crossing from North Woolwich. Probably one of the main reasons TfL wants to get rid of the 1960s ferries is environmental and pollution considerations. The need for clean air. The 1960s ferries have always belched smoke and whilst its a good effect and shows the boats hard at work, it must cause concern in terms of pollution. This is why the new ferries “will be fitted with special state-of-the-art systems to treat their exhausts, cutting harmful nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.”

Besides the environmental considerations another important aspect of the old ferries is the requirement for disability access and sadly none of the three ferries meet the legislation. They could have been modified. The cost and convenience of doing that would have been substantial, and it would have been very awkward to secure a level route across the deck of the old ferries without conflict with the traffic. Add to that the fact there was no shelter that could be used if the weather happened to be bad. The new boats solve all these problems and more.

Generally my experience when visiting the ferries has been that both James Matthew and John Burns are in operation whilst Ernest Bevin is mostly kept as a stand by and it’s been rare for me to find this boat in service. With John Burns being withdrawn in preparedness for the trip to France, Ernest Bevin obviously saw far more work in the final week.

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On the deck of Ernest Bevin just two days earlier…

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The salvage crew messing about on John Burns, 3rd October. I have no idea why the boat’s departure was delayed some say it was the weather – it was absolutely fine all week! Maybe it was the wait for an extra tug to help steer the ferry across the channel?

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Ernest Bevin’s captain in jovial mood as the last couple of hours loom on 5th October.

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The captain hard at work. His mood would be more sombre later.

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Along for the ride to see the final hours of the ferries were this Woolwich couple and their lovely dogs, whom they say had the honour of being the last dogs to ride the old boats.

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Briggs Marine salvaging the life-rafts! I suppose it was okay just for the one trip as so far the boats have never sunk! 🙂

The salvaging of the life-rafts was undertaken just before the vessel undertook its final crossing ever. The same work was done with James Newman after its final crossing ever. These life-rafts are not cheap! Its ‘grab those life-rafts with both hands and make a dash.’ (Though I’ve no idea how that would help anyone buy a football team…)

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The guy in the control cabin on the North Woolwich pier looks sad, this is the final minutes of Ernest Bevin in service.

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The captain looks quite unhappy because a in moment or two he will take Ernest Bevin to its moorings for the last time.

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Ernest Bevin leaves for its moorings. The next trip it makes will be that overseas to France for scrapping.

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James Newman approaching North Woolwich with the Routemaster bus visible.

The one thing obvious about this final day was the lack of officialdom. It seems TfL didn’t care. There was a TfL photographer on the ferries for about 20 minutes I have some pictures of him with his expensive Canon and white zoom lens. He put me to shame with my ancient Canon and dodgy telephoto lens lol!  Anyway this is what 853 London had to say about the occasion itself as well as the Routemaster:

Despite the historic occasion, there was no official representation from TfL nor the boroughs of Greenwich or Newham – many passers-by thought a Routemaster bus on board the Newman might have some kind of TfL delegation. In fact, it turned out to be a hen party.

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The penultimate crossing with James Newman featured an RML! It was a private party with disco but I think the driver deliberately choose to come this way so he could say his farewell to the ferries!

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The last vehicle off James Newman at North Woolwich was this cyclist (who turned around to be one of the last bikes onto the boat for the final trip.)

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The last cars are marshalled onto the deck.

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Just waiting for the inevitable….

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The gates are closed, the pier barriers lowered and the ramp raised for the very last time.

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The boat leaves North Woolwich pier for the last time.

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Some of the others who came to pay their last respects seen just before James Newman does its final tricks.


My video showing James Newman’s last pirouette on the Thames.

As we berthed at Woolwich for the final time we were all asked to move to the rear of the boat to allow the cars to move off safely.

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Among those waiting was Tim Dunn and three of his mates who had come to pay their respects to the old ferries.

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Just waiting… in a moment the gates will be opened, the barriers raised and the cars will disembark. And everyone follow suit.

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Everybody was allowed to walk off the ferries using the vehicle ramps. No more traffic so why not!

There was a short moment while Briggs Marine’s service vehicles ventured onto James Newman to salvage equipment no doubt useful for the company’s other boats.

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The jib leaving the Woolwich pier, having completed its tasks for Briggs Marine.

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The ramps are raised and the gates closed for the final time. James Newman is about to move off to its berth.

By this point practically everyone had gone, there was just me and a Bam Nuttal guy on the pier. Only I took pictures of James Newman moving off the pier for the last time.

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James Newman moves out into the river and begins the short journey to its berth.

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With the bright lights of London ahead, James Newman approaching its two other sister ferries, John Burns and Ernest Bevin (rear.) The next move any of these boats will make is to Le Harvre to be scrapped. RIP.

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Bam Nuttal staff were on hand to move in pretty soon as things had quietened down.

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At the entrance to the ferry road I spotted the information boards stacked in a pile, so I put them all in a line and took a photograph – and we can see what each one says. There was two which said ‘1 Hour Delay.’

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The Woolwich Ferry is without a doubt very closed! Next year it’ll be open again with the new boats that have yet to come from Poland.

The boats are Ben Woollacott and Dame Vera Lynn. It does seem that the upgrade programme is running a little late with reports now suggesting the new boats may not arrive until November.

The other Woolwich Ferry Posts:

Woolwich Ferry Upgrade Begins

Woolwich ferry’s last trip to town?

Woolwich Ferry Finale #1

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