Historic Lancashire ferry service set to be kept afloat with a total of over £80k extra funding

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The future of the Knott End to Fleetwood ferry service, which began back in 1841, is secured, thanks to additional funding from Lancashire County Council and Wyre Council.

The Ferry Service links Fleetwood and Knott End, and in a normal year attracts over 30,000 passengers.

However the costs of running the service have increased substantially over the last four-year period and the operator, Wyre Marine Services Ltd, is no longer in a position to operate the service commercially as had been intended when an eight-year contract was signed with the two councils in 2018.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the service was considerably reduced, affecting passenger numbers and its viability.

The historic Lancashire ferry service began way back in 1841 linking the rural communities of Knott End, Pilling and PreesallThe historic Lancashire ferry service began way back in 1841 linking the rural communities of Knott End, Pilling and Preesall
The historic Lancashire ferry service began way back in 1841 linking the rural communities of Knott End, Pilling and Preesall

Wyre Marine forecast that the service will continue to lose money, due to increasing costs and the effects of the pandemic when the service was unable to run, therefore it has been agreed that Lancashire County Council and Wyre Council will increase their financial support for the service for the next four years.

Set to be rubber stamped at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Lancashire County Council will increase its subsidy to the ferry by £10,000 to £52,103 annually, with Wyre Council matching this increased contribution.

County Councillor Charles Edwards, Lancashire’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Over 30,000 people use this service every year. To them, its value can’t be over-stated. If colleagues at Wyre Council and I had decided not to increase the funding, the service would have ceased.

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“As a result, many of those people would have either had to drive the 12 miles or use the bus, which takes well over an hour. The ferry is a low-cost, low-carbon option and is a historic tourist attraction for the county. Currently, it only costs £2 per trip; £1 for babies and 50p for a dog.

“Many Lancashire folk will remember taking the ferry on day trips to Fleetwood, as will visitors to the county from further afield.

“When the Knott End fisherman, John Croft, first offered to take people across the River Wyre to Fleetwood for a small charge in his ‘well-type’ boat 181 years ago, I doubt he had any inkling as to t he enduring appeal his service would have”.

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Additional funding will also be met by the operator who will be looking to generate additional sources of income, potentially through fare increases for the journeys made.

Councillor Michael Vincent, Deputy Leader and Resources Portfolio Holder at Wyre Council, added: “We’ve been working very closely with Lancashire County Council and Wyre Marine to ensure the popular Fleetwood to Knott End ferry service can continue.

“The last two years throughout the pandemic have been extremely tough and the service was not able to run for a time, so I am delighted that we have been able to work together to provide funding to keep the ferry on the water for residents and visitors in Wyre.”

Fleetwood Ferry’s skipper of 18 years Tony Cowell said: “People love the Ferry, it’s a great job and a great asset. Securing the additional funding that is needed for us to continue to operate is fantastic news and the whole crew are really pleased that we will be able to keep providing this service for people.

“A huge thank you to Lancashire County Council and Wyre Council.”