|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||1.3 km (0.8 miles)|
|Transport for London|
|Transport for London|
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 These were withdrawn in October 2018, at which point extensive modifications were carried out to the piers to support two new hybrid vessels, the "Dame Vera Lynn" and "Ben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.
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.
|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.
- Londonist: Say Goodbye to the Old Woolwich Ferries (24.09.2018)
- 853 London:New Woolwich Ferry Vessels Take to the Water for the First Time (17.05.2018) (archive.org)
- [hhttps://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/info/200228/local_history_and_heritage/265/woolwich_ferry_history/2 Greenwich Council: Woolwich Ferry] (archive.org)