The news that Cumbria County Council will re-open the Windermere Ferry on Saturday 27 October has been welcomed by Cumbria Tourism and Windermere Lake Cruises, exactly five months since the vessel was hit by an engine fire.
The ferry hasn’t been in operation since May 27, resulting in the lack of a cross-lake car ferry service for the entire summer period – including the annual six-week summer holiday break, the busiest time of the year.
Furthermore, it meant longer journeys for commuters who had to drive around the lake instead, with Windermere Lake Cruises stepping in to help foot passengers and cyclists.
Cumbria Tourism shared the concerns of the knock-on effects for businesses – particularly those on the western side of the lake who have reported a poor summer of trade as a result.
Cumbria Tourism Managing Director Gill Haigh, says, “This announcement has been welcomed by Cumbria Tourism – although we are disappointed the ferry will not be open in time for the start of the half-term holidays, as we – and many others had hoped.
“By the re-opening date, the ferry will have been out of action for exactly five months. Not only did that include the annual six-week summer holiday break – the busiest time of the year, but it meant longer journeys for commuters who had to drive around the lake instead, with Windermere Lake Cruises stepping in to help foot passengers and cyclists.”
Managing Director of Windermere Lake Cruises Nigel Wilkinson says, “We’re delighted that Cumbria County Council has confirmed a date for the Windermere Ferry to be brought back into service. The Windermere Ferry is an important amenity and residents and visitor alike will welcome its return and be looking forward using the service.
“With the introduction of the Windermere Lake Cruises’ Autumn/Winter/Spring timetable on Monday 29th October 2018, our cross-lakes service ceases until the Summer 2019 timetable starts on 6th April 2019, so the re-introduction of the Windermere Ferry should ensure a continued service across the Windermere in the months ahead.
“We’re also pleased to have been able to help pedestrians and cyclists cross the lake onboard a Windermere Lake Cruises vessel whenever possible, despite not having been able to help motorists or to operate the same hours as the Windermere Ferry normally sails.
“After the Windermere Ferry’s problems in May this year, we stepped in with our ‘Bike Boat’ service from Brockhole to Bark Barn during school holidays and also supplemented our cross-lake service to offer an enhanced service to those passengers who would have ordinarily used the Windermere Ferry.
“We have also offered the same fares as those charged by the Windermere Ferry to holders of our popular residents’ discount card, which has been appreciated by locals using this service.
“We have received a lot of thanks for the assistance we have provided during the five-month ferry closure; and we’re very happy to have been able to help during this unexpected period of disruption.
“We are grateful to our crews who have worked hard to provide an alternative to those pedestrians and cyclists who had arrived intending to use the Windermere Ferry, and on most occasions our efforts have been appreciated.
“Although the Windermere Ferry isn’t operated by Windermere Lake Cruises, we have had enquires throughout the summer about alterative travel options and when the Windermere Ferry would re-commence sailing.
“It’s a massively popular service and we’re glad that normality is about to resume for everyone involved. We particularly looking forward to seeing no more ‘Ferry Closed’ signs and are looking forward to ‘business as normal’ on Windermere.”
Gill Haigh continued: “Cumbria Tourism shared the concerns of businesses about the knock-on effects, particularly those on the western side of the lake who have reported a poor summer of trade as a result. Many of those have really suffered financially during this time.
“Many people were deterred from visiting the western side of the lake over the summer, choosing what’s seen by some as the ‘easier’ option of staying on the eastern side instead.
“We have been working hard since May to raise awareness of the importance of the experiences on offer on the western side of the lake – not only to ensure our millions of visitors have a great time here, but to help those businesses who suffered so unexpectedly as a direct result of the ferry being taken out of commission for such an extended period.
“We have stepped up awareness campaigns of the attractions and accommodation in the Coniston, Hawkshead and surrounding areas and heavily lobbied the county council to ensure appropriate signage was placed alongside the ferry closure signs, reinforcing the critical message that businesses were, and are, open as usual.
“We are happy that the ferry will re-open shortly, but it’s also vital that lessons are learnt from this. We, alongside other organisations are working hard to promote sustainable travel to encourage more people to choose to leave their cars at home and get around by other means.
“At a time when the trains on the Lakes Line have been unreliable, indeed non-existent for a short time, the ferry problems were the last thing we needed over the summer.
“Now, attention must turn back strongly to the needs of businesses on the western side of the lake, as they work hard over the winter to recoup losses they have suffered.
“We have several projects in the works at the moment which we hope will encourage visitors to return and help those businesses begin to see a well-deserved upturn in trade in the run up to Christmas; a period which for so many, is one of the most important times of the year.”
The county council has confirmed the ferry will be back in operation on October 27, following ‘sea worthiness’ tests which will be carried out on October 22.