World famous service’s two existing vessels – Royal Iris and Snowdrop – will both turn 60 next year and they cost significant amounts of money to run and maintain. Tony McDonough reports
Plans for a new Mersey Ferry have moved a step further after Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said the project to build the vessel would go out to tender.
There has been a ‘Ferry Across the Mersey’ for more than 800 years and the current service, operated by Merseytravel via Mersey Ferries, uses two vessels – Royal Iris and Snowdrop (the Dazzle Ferry).
Both ferries will turn 60 in 2019 and in more or less constant use. They operate the morning and evening commuter sailings, the hour-long daytime cruises as well as the Manchester Ship Canal cruises in the summer.
Due to the high cost of maintenance and running the vessels, it is thought investment in a new ferry is the best way of ensuring the long-term future of the service which is hugely popular with visitors to Liverpool. Money for the new vessel will come from the Metro Mayor’s Strategic Investment Fund.
The new ferry design is aimed at providing a vessel that will improve comfort and versatility for use for events and river cruises as well as fulfilling its core role as a public transport service. The investment is expected to reduce operating costs to Mersey Ferries over the life of the vessels.
The announcement of the start of the procurement process, in which bidders are encouraged to recognise the impact of their bids on the local economy, comes after naval architects prepared initial concept designs.
A supplier engagement day was held earlier in the year to encourage interest in the project and networking amongst the local supply chain. There was also a period of consultation with the public and stakeholders on the potential design, features and on-board facilities.
A preferred supplier to build the vessel will be selected as soon as the process allows. City region leaders, through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, will then be asked to commit to the project going ahead.
Mr Rotheram said: “Pressing the button on the procurement process marks the start of the next chapter in the Mersey Ferries’ long and rich history.
“The current fleet is sorely in need of an upgrade and this is as much about safeguarding our beloved ferries for future generations as it is improving and enhancing the customer experience.”