Wear Ferry could return to Sunderland for Tall Ships Race

SHIPSHAPE: The Chairman of the Seafront Trader's Association, Tom Parkin, is in favour of a return of the Wear Ferry, as he believes it would help boost tourism.
SHIPSHAPE: The Chairman of the Seafront Trader's Association, Tom Parkin, is in favour of a return of the Wear Ferry, as he believes it would help boost tourism.
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CALLS to bring back the Wear Ferry “as a legacy for the future” on the back of the Tall Ships’ arrival in 2018 have been reignited.

As Sunderland makes preparations to welcome the prestigious event, a new debate as to whether civic and transport leaders should invest in a ferry service to help breathe new life into the River Wear has begun.

Ferry boats were once a regular sight on the river. However, the last service ended in 1958.

The call to bring back the service came during the latest meeting of the North Sunderland Area Committee.

Chairman of the Seafront Traders’ Association Tom Parkin said: “We have lots of things happening and we will be expecting a lot of people to come into the area for the Tall Ships Race.

“Having a ferry is a very good idea – it would leave a legacy for the future.”

Mr Parkin said the introduction of the ferry and river trips would further boost tourism in the area, as well as link the river to the seafront.

“We are getting more and more tourists in from other areas and this would bring in more tourism and more money into the area.”

Money will be spent on dredging the river and building pontoons in preparation for the Tall Ships’ arrival.

Coun Denny Wilson said “a big lump of money” is being spent on the river, and a decision has to be made on whether to make the pontoons temporary or permanent.

Councillors also hope that as well as regular ferry crossings, there would be scope to introduce trips up-river and out to sea.

Coun Rosalind Copeland, who represents the Southwick ward, said: “With the Tall Ships coming we have to have the whole of the river opened up as soon as possible.

“I am all in favour of this, and look forward to the day ferries are there back on the river.”

The issue of reigniting the ferry service was first raised a number of years ago when a feasibility study was carried out by Nexus in 2009.

It found capital funding of £8.6million would be needed to deliver the new ferry and new ferry landing points.

The service would also require an operating subsidy from taxpayers as the new crossing would be unlikely to turn a profit.

The study also identified possible Wear Ferry landing sites at Panns Bank,Scotia Quay and at University St Peter’s.

A Nexus spokesman said: “Local transport is being cut right across the country so it is very difficult time to consider new services.

“Any plans to operate a new passenger ferry on the River Wear would require substantial funding and a robust business case would be needed.

“However, if such a scheme is a strategic priority for the city of Sunderland then Nexus would sit down with all of the relevant stakeholders to explore the proposals in much greater detail.”

Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Secretary Coun Mel Speding said: “With the announcement of Sunderland hosting The Tall Ships Races in 2018 came the opportunity to look at many aspects of the event and what we have to offer as a city.

“As the event planning progresses, I’m sure this suggestion along with many, many others will be given due consideration.”