Star.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar grey.pngStar grey.png

Woolwich Ferry

From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Woolwich Ferry
Location Map ( geo)
Woolwich Ferry.jpg
Cameraicon.png View gallery (14)
From:  North Woolwich
To:  Woolwich
Distance:  1.3 km (0.8 miles)
Highway Authority
Transport for London
Opening Date
Current Operator
Transport for London
On road(s)
 • A117 • A2204

The Woolwich Ferry, from Woolwich to North Woolwich, is the eastern Crossing linking London's North and South Circular roads. It was first operated in 1889 by the London County Council.

Classified in 1923 as the A117, it was operated by the LCC until 1965 when control was transferred to the Greater London Council. After the abolition of the GLC, the operation was transferred to Greenwich Council who ran it until the end of September 2008. Today it is operated by Serco on behalf of Transport for London.

The crossing is completely free and operated by a fleet of three ferries, though a maximum of only two are in service at any one time. At quiet times and weekends, the service is reduced to one boat. The crossing takes about five minutes in normal conditions, but waiting times can be considerably in excess of this, especially if the Blackwall Tunnel or Dartford Crossing are closed. In those circumstances, waiting times of over two hours are not uncommon.

There are vehicle waiting areas at each end, initially on the piers out into the river, and for longer queues vehicles on the south shore are diverted into a queuing area on the west side of the approach pier. On the north shore the longer approach is divided into queuing lanes, with local traffic on a separate carriageway alongside. At times of disruption there is still a likelihood of queuing vehicles blocking back and disrupting local traffic.

Major flood protection was provided at each terminal in the 1980s, with large sliding floodgates which can be extended across the approach road when exceptional tides are expected, typically at times when the Thames Barrier (just upstream) has to be closed as well. The ferry service has to be suspended at such times.

Substantial investment was made in 2014-5 in the linkspans at each end, which had their machinery replaced and uprated.

The three previous boats, named "John Burns", "James Newman" and "Ernest Bevin" were built in Dundee and began service in 1963 with the new curved piers completed two years later. These were withdrawn in October 2018, at which point extensive modifications were carried out to the piers to support two new hybrid vessels, the "Dame Vera Lynn" and "Ben Woollacott". Following completion of berthing trials, the new vessels entered service in 2019[1].

An unusual but longstanding tradition is a summer day cruise on the Thames for disabled children; the vessel is dressed overall with flags in the maritime way, and the ambulances with the children are driven directly onto the car deck, where various attractions are also placed.

If the Thames Gateway Crossing is built or the proposed Gallions Reach-Thamesmead ferry is instituted then the Woolwich Ferry may be withdrawn, although this would require an act of parliament.


Name IMO Operator Dates Notes
Ben Woollacott 9822011 Transport for London 2019 -
Dame Vera Lynn 9822023 Transport for London 2019 -
John Burns 5416010 Transport for London 1963 - 2018 Named after John Elliot Burns who was an enthusiastic student of London's history and its river. He represented Battersea on the London County Council from its creation in 1889 until 1907.
Ernest Bevin 5426998 Transport for London 1963 - 2018 Named after Ernest Bevin who, in 1921 Bevin formed the Transport and General Workers Union from 32 separate unions. In 1945 he became Foreign Secretary and represented Woolwich in 1950 until ill health forced him to retire in 1951.
James Newman 5411905 Transport for London 1963 - 2018 James Newman was a school teacher by profession, he was Mayor of Woolwich from 1923 until 1925 and again in 1952 to 1953. He served on many local and national organisations, including the metropolitan borough's standing joint committee. He was the co-founder and vice president of the Woolwich Council of Social Service.
Gordon 1923 - 1963
Squires 1922 - 1963 It was named after William James Squires (1850 to 1931), a Woolwich man, twice Mayor of Woolwich and for many years chairman of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society.
Will Crooks 1930 - 1963 It was named after William Crooks (1852 to 1921), Woolwich's first Labour MP, who took his seat in the House of Commons in 1903.
John Benn 1930 - 1963 It was named after Sir John Benn (1850 to 1922), who was an ancestor of Tony Benn MP. A member of the London County Council from its creation in 1889 and its chairman from 1904 to 1905, John Benn was also MP for Davenport for six years.
Gordon 1888 - 1922/30 named after General Gordon of Khartoum (1833 to 1885) who was born in Woolwich and studied at the academy.
Duncan 1888 - 1922/30 It was named after Colonel Francis Duncan (1836 to 1888) the author of a history on the Royal Artillery. Colonel Duncan was a soldier, and MP.
Hutton 1893 - 1922/30 It was named after Sir John Hutton DL, JP. Hutton was a Member of the London County Council from 1889 to 1901 and was its chairman from 1892 to 1895.

Further information on the boats is available on the Greenwich Council website[2].



  1. 853 London:New Woolwich Ferry Vessels Take to the Water for the First Time (17.05.2018) (
  2. [h Greenwich Council: Woolwich Ferry] (


Jago Hazzard - Ferry Tale of Woolwich

Keep your Queen Marys and your Mauretanias, I'll take the Woolwich Ferry any time.

Watch video > >

Woolwich Ferry
A117 • A2204
Related Pictures
View gallery (14)
A117 North Circular Road - Woolwich Ferry - Coppermine - 4732.jpgA117 Woolwich Ferry - Coppermine - 4729.jpgA117 North Circular Road - Coppermine - 4728.jpgA117 North Circular Road - Coppermine - 4727.jpgA117 Woolwich Ferry on the North Circular Road - Coppermine - 4733.jpg
Crossings of the River Thames
Thames Head Bridge • A429 Road Bridge • Three Bridges • Town Bridge • A419 Road Bridge • Castle Eaton Bridge • Hannington Bridge • Halfpenny Bridge • St Johns Bridge • Radcot Bridge • Tadpole Bridge • Newbridge • Swinford Bridge • Thames Bridge (A34) • Godstow & Little Godstow Bridges • Osney Bridge • Folly Bridge • Donnington Bridge • Isis Bridge • Abingdon Bridge • Sutton Bridge • Clifton Hampden Bridge • Little Wittenham Bridge • Shillingford Bridge • Wallingford Bridge • Winterbrook Bridge • Streatley & Goring Bridge • Whitchurch Bridge • Caversham Bridge • Reading Bridge • Sonning Bridge • Henley Bridge • Marlow Bridge • Longridge Bridge • Cookham Bridge • Maidenhead Bridge • New Thames Bridge • Queen Elizabeth Bridge • Windsor Bridge • Victoria Bridge • Albert Bridge • Runnymede • Staines Bridge • M3 Thames Bridge • Chertsey Bridge • Walton Bridge • Hampton Court Bridge • Kingston Bridge • Richmond Bridge • Twickenham Bridge • Kew Bridge • Chiswick Bridge • Hammersmith Bridge • Putney Bridge • Wandsworth Bridge • Battersea Bridge • Albert Bridge • Chelsea Bridge • Vauxhall Bridge • Lambeth Bridge • Westminster Bridge • Waterloo Bridge • Blackfriars Bridge • Southwark Bridge • London Bridge • Tower Bridge • Rotherhithe Tunnel • Blackwall Tunnels • Silvertown Tunnel • Woolwich Ferry • Thames Gateway Crossing • Belvedere Bridge • Dartford Crossing (Dartford TunnelQEII BridgeNew Dartford Bridge) • Gravesend - Tilbury Ferry • Lower Thames Crossing
Inland Ferry Crossings
Great BritainAust Ferry • Corran Ferry • Cowes Chain Ferry • Dartmouth Higher Ferry • Dartmouth Lower Ferry • Erskine Ferry • Gravesend to Tibury (P) • Humber Crossing • Instow to Appledore (P) • Itchen Chain Ferry • King Harry Ferry • Nigg • Renfrew to Yoker (P) • Sandbanks • Strome Ferry • Torpoint • Windermere • Woolwich
IrelandPassage East • Passage West • Strangford to Portaferry • Greencastle to Magilligan • Rathmullan to Buncrana • Tarbert to Killimer • Greencastle to Greenore
Other AreasIrish Sea • Inner Hebrides • Western Isles • Shetland • Orkney • North Sea • English Channel • Solent • Inland Crossings • Other Island Crossings

SABRE - The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts
Discuss - Digest - Discover - Help