Uncertain future for Renfrew-Yoker Ferry

14 Jan 2010

by Russell Leadbetter, Evening Times

It crosses the Clyde in about 90 seconds and has been part of Glasgow's history for 500 years.

But the Renfrew-Yoker ferry could be about to sail for the very last time if its owners, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, decide that enough is enough and axes the service on cash grounds.

Yesterday's Evening Times broke the exclusive news that SPT, struggling in the face of massive budget cuts, will meet on January 22 and consider whether to scrap the service.

SPT has subsidised every journey across the river for the last decade - a level that by last year had reached £2.69 for every passenger. Scrapping the service would, it is understood, save around £430,000 a year.

Passenger numbers have declined too, with some sailings carrying only three or four passengers.

Yesterday, as the Evening Times made several crossings on the Renfrew Rose, one of the two ferries, this was borne out. Passenger numbers were low - but every passenger we spoke to on the 200m crossing said they valued the service and its convenience for the regular bus services.

Shipyard workers use it between 6.30am and 8.30am and again between 4pm and 6pm. At other times of the day, older people and those on concessionary fares come on board. The single fare is £1.20.

Alec and Margaret Costello, of Braehead, had come across to visit their grand-daughter.

"It's been really handy for us while we're visiting her," said Margaret, 73. Alec, 76, added: "It will be a big loss to the people around here."

Margaret added: "If you go by bus from Paisley it's nearly an hour, whereas it's less than two minutes by the ferry."

One young mum, who asked not to be named, said: "It would affect me if they stopped the service. I don't drive and I have a baby in a pram.

"To get to Braehead I would need to get a black hack [taxi], and getting that from Yoker to Braehead would cost me £13.

"I couldn't get a private hire as I would need to take his car-seat as well as the buggy, which would be inconvenient if you had to carry these around as well.

"So yes, I would really miss the service, definitely."

Robert Busby, who lives in Clydebank, said the ferry was handy for him on his twice-weekly trip.

He added: "It beats getting the bus into Partick, then the bus from Partick to Renfrew.

"But it's not just the money, it's the time aspect as well. I can walk up from here and get the ferry across in about 20 minutes: it would take me longer than 20 minutes just to get to Partick. You're talking about maybe an hour and a quarter for the whole journey."

The ferry service has operated between Renfrew and Yoker for 500 years all told, and in its current location for the last 200. And for 70 of these years, Harvey Martin, of Moorpark, Renfrew, has been a passenger.

He said: "There's a charter, a piece of paper from away back, in Renfrew town hall, which says that there must be a passage between Renfrew and Yoker. It's there in black and white ... if it hasn't disappeared, that is.

"I used to come over here to visit my grandma when I was about seven or eight.

"I don't use it as much as I used to - Monday and Friday, I go over, as I'm a member of a bowling club. If the ferry went, I'd need to get the 747 bus through the Clyde Tunnel then get a bus along. It would take me three-quarters of an hour."

Pensioner Charles Hudson said: "We don't drive and rely on public transport. We use the ferry once a week, sometimes twice. We go to Braehead - it's brilliant for that. I know it's probably expensive to keep going, but it certainly helps us."

Gavin Cameron, 26, is one of the boatmasters on the ferry service.

He said: "It's a good job, nice and relaxed - everyone gets on quite well.

"The passengers are dead friendly and we get on well with them.

"It's been tough recently because of the bad weather - we were one of the few that have kept going."

He added: "A lot of people don't know we exist, they think we went defunct years ago. And sometimes people mix us up with the Renfrew Ferry [the floating entertainment venue on the Clyde] and ask if they can get tickets for a gig."

Fellow boatmaster Joe Girvan, 46, lives in Renfrew, and spent years working on the buses.

"When I was on the buses I used the ferry, so I know how important it is," he said. "It's a great wee job, a great asset for people on both sides of the river."

The ferry's fate will be decided a week tomorrow.

Reproduced with the permission of the Herald and Times Group.

  • The Renfrew- Yoker Ferry