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

Knott end view toward Fleetwood from Ferry slip

It began way back in 1841 linking the rural communities of Knott End, Pilling and Preesall.

Now, the future of the Knott End to Fleetwood ferry service is being 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 it attracts over 30,000 passengers.

The costs of running the service have increased substantially over the last four-year period and although the ferry service is well-used as a means of transport between Knott End and Fleetwood, the operator, Wyre Marine Services Ltd, is not in a position to operate the service commercially as had been intended when a contract was signed with the two councils in 2018.

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

The operator, Wyre Marine, are forecasting that the service will continue to lose money, due to increasing costs and the effects of the Covid-19 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.

This means that Lancashire County Council will increase its subsidy to the ferry by £10,000 to £52,103 annually, with Wyre Council matching this increased contribution. The decision is set to be rubber stamped at a meeting of Lancashire County Council’s cabinet on Thursday. 

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

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.

“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 the enduring appeal his service would have”.

The Ferry currently operates under an eight-year contract signed between the two councils and Wyre Marine Services in 2018.

Councillor Michael Vincent, Deputy Leader and Resources Portfolio Holder at Wyre Council, said: “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.”

Published: 5th September 2022