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Woolwich Ferry

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

Are you happy with the recent performance of the Woolwich Ferry?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

No. I apologise for the level of service that communities who depend on the ferry have had to put up with over the last year. It is not acceptable.

The Woolwich Ferry is an important part of London’s transport network and TfL and I take its operations very seriously. That is why TfL has invested in new vessels with much cleaner environmental standards and increased capacity. The new ferries have low‑emission or hybrid engines that are quieter and emit 90% less particulate matter and 70% less NOx than the legal standards. They also provide 40% more space than the old vessels, can carry 150 passengers and have more space for dedicated cyclist spaces.

These new low‑emission boats are at the cutting edge of the ferry industry and, as with any pioneering technology, there are implementation challenges that need to be overcome. The new ferries have auto‑mooring, which uses magnetic technology. This reduces emissions further and improves the ease of boarding and alighting, but this has led to some technical difficulties. TfL requested an urgent action plan from all parties involved and a taskforce with engineers has been created to fix these issues. I am pleased to say there have been significant improvements in the technical reliability of the vessels since the summer, but further improvement is still needed.

Despite the improved trend in reliability, there have been a number of closures recently. Some of these have been caused by staff shortages and industrial action. Talks are taking place between union reps and the ferry operators, Briggs Marine Ltd. However, I am disappointed with the time taken to resolve the outstanding issues. I support TfL in urging all parties to reach agreement as quickly as possible in order to avoid further disruption for commuters who rely on this service.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

OK, Mr Mayor. I appreciate your answer. We are short on time. I want to work with you on this. Can we have your assurance that you will work with the unions? I know that there has been a number of strikes. You did promise you would roll up your sleeves and so let us see if we can work with them.

There was something that came to me. I did speak with one of the union members, actually, and I am afraid I cannot confirm it, but I think we are both in the same place. You and I both believe that everybody should get, at minimum, the London Living Wage. I was told by this union member that they do not. Are you aware of that?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

There were two points. In relation to the dispute between the trade union and the private company, I would urge both sides to sort this out. You are right. They should roll their sleeves up, get around the table and resolve this.

Secondly, in relation to the Living Wage, I did receive a report in relation to an allegation that some staff were not receiving the Living Wage. I checked it out and they all are receiving the London Living Wage. However, if offline you would let me know any other specifics, I am really happy to chase that up.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

Yes, I cannot confirm, but I was surprised, and I know that we both share that view that people should be paid that. I can have your assurance that all the staff are now receiving the London Living Wage?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Just to reassure you, we received a similar complaint to the one you received that some staff were not receiving the London Living Wage. We checked it out. We have been reassured they are. If there are other things that come to light, please let us know and we will act on it straight away.