Merseytravel has confirmed that it is committed to securing the long-term future of the Mersey Ferries, despite market pressures curtailing its procurement process for brand new vessels.
A spokesperson said, “The Mersey Ferries are a vital part of our world-famous heritage; visitor economy and public transport system and we remain totally committed to securing their long-term future.
“Our existing ferries are almost 60 years old and in need of a revamp. Our intentions are to breathe new life into our existing fleet, helping to secure their future for the next decade and beyond.
“While we are obviously disappointed to have taken the difficult decision to end the current procurement process following the latest round of bidding, we are making sure that they will still be around for future generations to enjoy.
“The procurement process was paused in autumn 2019, as the bids received were higher than the funding available and in view of the high level of uncertainty surrounding Brexit.”
This process was resumed before the second lockdown in August 2020 to test the market but unfortunately, prices have increased further, calling into question the affordability of the whole project.
The spokesperson continued, “We would like to thank our suppliers for their interest and for working with us throughout the process. We are disappointed that the final solution bids were much higher than expected because of extraneous factors.
“The commissioned works at Seacombe Terminal and investment in the Eureka Mersey! project are continuing as planned, and along with plans for the significant refurbishment of the classic fleet, demonstrate our commitment to the long-term future of Mersey Ferries. We know for many, refurbishing the existing vessels, which form such great memories for the people of our region, will be seen as welcome news.”
Wirral Labour leader Cllr Janette Williamson has welcomed the announcement by Merseytravel that the Mersey Ferries are to be revamped, and says she will be pushing for the work to be done here in Wirral.
While plans for the building of two new ferries have had to be put back, work will be done to completely refit the boats and make them more comfortable and environmentally friendly.
Cllr Williamson sais, “It’s great to hear that the iconic Mersey ferries are to be re-fitted. They are a huge part of our history, but also of our future. Our post-covid regeneration strategy is for a cleaner, greener borough, with more use of public transport, walking and cycling, so it’s vital that we have ferries fit for future generations.
While no decision has been taken yet on who will get the contract for the work, Cllr Williamson has said she hopes the work will go to local people. “Wirral’s shipwrights are second to none, and it would be fitting to have a contract like this awarded locally, securing jobs, encouraging apprenticeships and building wealth in the community.
“Obviously Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region have to ensure that the contract for the refurbishment offers value for money and any contracts will have to go through due process, but it’s clear that we have workers here in Wirral who could do an excellent job.”
Mick Whitley, the MP for Birkenhead, also welcomed the announcement by Merseytravel that plans are afoot to revamp the ferry service. “The late Gerry Marsden would have been made up.”
Although plans for the building of two new ferries had to be shelved – largely because of cost – Mick has been assured that the refurbishment planned will not be a quick paint job.
Mick said, “I have been assured by Merseytravel that the refurbishment will be a proper overhaul. While the ships – and their wonderful heritage value – will be preserved they are getting a stern to bow makeover with modern clean and green engines. They will offer a comfortable transport service and an attractive leisure option.”
There is no decision on who will get the contract for the transformation of the ferries into new model boats, but Mick hopes that the work can go to local labour.
He added, “I fully understand that Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region have to ensure that the contract for the refurbishment and future maintenance of the ferries has to meet value for money criteria and their decision will go through due process to ensure this.
“But make no mistake I will be batting for Birkenhead. With Cammell Laird’sproud tradition of shipbuilding my town and the workers in it have the skills to deliver this work to the highest quality. A contract like this offers longevity for the yard with the possibility of secure jobs, apprenticeships and a positive future for the yard. I will be campaigning to make sure that all parties are aware of this and make the right call.”