Sunday, 25 July 2010

Woolwich Ferry

The Woolwich Ferry operates between Woolwich, on the South bank of the Thames in the Borough of Greenwich and North Woolwich in the Borough of Newham. It acts as a link between London’s orbital road’s the North and South Circular. A ferry service has operated across the Thames at Woolwich since the fourteenth century but the current, free ferry service, officially opened on 23 March 1889, created by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. In the middle of the twentieth century people preferred to use the Woolwich pedestrian tunnel rather than confront the stink churned up by the four paddle steamers that came into operation in 1923. This was a time when poisons in the Thames could eat and rot the propellers of river boats.

The current three vessels were all built in Dundee in 1963 by the Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Company and replaced the previous four paddle steamers. They are each named after prominent local politicians and staunch socialists, John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman former Mayor of Woolwich. This continues the practice which saw one of the previous paddle steamers named the John Benn, grandfather of former LabourMP Tony Benn. The diesel powered ships are 185 feet long and can carry 500 passengers and 200 to ns of vehicles. The ships have two propellers, one at each end, to add maneuverability and allow movement away from the terminals whatever the power of the tide.

The service has out lived its various masters, the London County Council (LCC) and the Greater London Council (GLC) and is now part of Transport for London (TFL).

This is not a very good picture of the Thames barrier (it’s there.... honest) but it’s taken from the Woolwich Ferry crossing and shows the Thames, the barrier and the darkening sky over Canary Wharf.
The Thames Barrier was completed in 1983 and built to hold back the 50 thousand tons of water, which can pass through the barrier each second, for maybe three or four times a year. By 2001 it was used fourteen times between January and April and in January 2003 the barrier was raised eighteen times to protect London from flooding. A combination of the tide rising by two feet per century and London sinking at a rate of eight inches per century could result in the Thames barrier being redundant by as early as 2030.

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