Sadiq Khan apologises after being accused of 'wasting' £20m on new Woolwich ferries

7 November 2019, 08:18 | Updated: 7 November 2019, 11:14

The Mayor of London has apologised after being accused of 'wasting' £20million on two new ferries which have been plagued by faults.

The new boats have been affected by a series of technical problems, with faults in their generators and the 'intelligent docking locking' systems.

The faults have led to staff going on strike. The service saw nearly a month's worth of delays in the first half of 2019.

LBC has seen figures that show 625 hours of running time was lost between 3rd February and 20th July. That equals 27 working days - nearly an entire month. Power outages as well as the technical faults led to the strikes on the hybrid boats.

In the same time period before the new boats were introduced just two days were lost.

The Woolwich Ferry
The Woolwich Ferry. Picture: LBC / Rachael Venables

Speaking on LBC, the Mayor of London admitted they had "dropped the ball" over the ferries.

He told James O'Brien: "The ferries aren't good enough. They were supposed to be good enough, but they haven't been.

"Hands up, we've dropped the ball on this.

"They are energy-efficient, hybrid ferries, but in my view, there are basic problems in how they dock on to one side of the river compared to the other.

"TfL have to put our hands up and admit these problems should have been sorted out in the factory, not in the River Thames.

"Thousands of people have been inconvenienced. We think we've turned the corner, but can I apologise to all those affected by this."

The boats were bought last year for the Thames crossing at Woolwich.

They were built in Poland and cost £9.7million each and were meant to be a cleaner alternative to the old system of three boats with two running at any one time.

Onay Kasab from the union Unite told LBC News someone somewhere has "clearly got ripped off."

He said nobody was taking any responsibility for what has happened, "these aren't just teething problems, these are huge technical problems."

Mr Kasab said union members were "absolutely fuming."

Passengers said it was an "essential crossing," and one told LBC it was "such a silly idea" to buy two ferries to replace three.

About 20,000 vehicles a week use the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London. An estimated 2.6 million passengers also use the ferry annually.

The new fuel-efficient boats can hold 150 passengers and 40 vehicles, and they were designed to improve reliability and reduce noise.

Danny Price, General Manager of Sponsored Services at TfL, said: “We’re sorry for the issues that Londoners using the Woolwich Ferry have faced this year – it isn’t acceptable and we have repeatedly made that clear to the vessel manufacturer.

"A taskforce of engineers has been created to resolve the power issues the hybrid engines have experienced.

"The Woolwich Ferry is an important part of London’s transport and we take its operations very seriously – that’s why we’ve invested in new vessels with much cleaner environmental standards and increased capacity.”

There have been records of a ferry service in the Woolwich area since 1308.