Should West Norfolk council spend £30,000 on a new ferry for King’s Lynn?

At low tide passengers walk out to catch the King's Lynn ferry. Picture: Ian Burt

At low tide passengers walk out to catch the King's Lynn ferry. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

The River Ouse in King’s Lynn is now so silted up that West Norfolk council may buy a £30,000 amphibious vehicle to keep the ferry service running.

West Norfolk councillors are being asked to agree up to £30,000 towards the cost of the craft, which would operate between the Ferry Steps in King Street and West Lynn.

A report to the council’s cabinet says a ferry service has operated across the Great Ouse since the 13th Century.

But it adds: “The last two years of drought has resulted in a lack of fresh water flowing along the river to naturally scour the river bed which has raised the river bed levels so much so that the ferry vessel is unable to reach the end of the King’s Lynn landing stage at low tides.

“The operators are struggling to maintain the reliable and accessible service they have provided to date which means the longevity of the service is now threatened.”

The report adds passenger numbers have seen “dramatic increases” over the last decade, with 94,000 return journeys made in 2009. But it warns numbers are now decreasing, because the ferry is unable to reach the landing stage on the Lynn side at low tide, meaning passengers have to walk along boards. The report adds: “Current river conditions now mean that the ability to run the service altogether is threatened.”

New landing stages can not be built where the ferry currently crosses the river because they could impede navigation. Building stages elsewhere on the waterway would cost £500,000. Dredging sections of the river would cost from £2,000 - £20,000, depending on the method adopted. But the report warns that these might only provide a “short term fix”.

The report concludes: “Officers therefore recommend that if the council wishes to support the

ferry operation and ensure the service remains reliable and accessible for the foreseeable future, it would represent better value for money to make a contribution towards the cost of a new bespoke vessel which would enable the ferry to sail in water and drive onto the river bed at low tide to access the King’s Lynn landing stage.”

West Norfolk council currently provides a £20,000 subsidy to the ferry each year. The report, which goes before the council’s resources panel tomorrow night, proposes that be reduced, to recoup the £30,000 cost of the new vessel.

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