Magazine

Mar 7, 2015

Life On The Woolwich Ferry

Life On The Woolwich Ferry

One of London’s most striking features, the Thames runs through the British capital and has throughout the centuries played a pivotal role in the life of the city. It is no surprise that Londoners from ancient Romans to modern day drivers have paid great attention to where and how to cross it. Woolwich, in south east London, has been the site of a river crossing since Saxon times. It is now home to a free ferry service transporting passengers and vehicles over the great river. Now, as in the past, there are proposals for plans to replace the Woolwich Free Ferry with either a bridge or a tunnel. However, many of the ferry workers believe there will always be a ferry service at Woolwich, which has been a place for crossing the Thames since the Saxon times. The free ferry opened in 1889, with each boat licensed to carry 1000 passengers and 15-20 vehicles. Latest figures show that on average just under 80,000 vehicles and 22,000 foot passengers use the ferry every four weeks.

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Vehicles are directed onto the deck of the James Newman ferry before dawn at Woolwich in London, January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Captain Dave Watkins in the Wheel House of the James Newman ferry before dawn in Woolwich, London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Mate Shaun Barker holds onto the steering controls as he waits for the James Newman ferry to be loaded in Woolwich, London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Trained Hand Danny Davis guides vehicles onto the deck of the James Newman ferry at Woolwich in London January 24, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The James Newman Woolwich Ferry crosses the River Thames before dawn in London January 24, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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A Deckhand directs vehicles onto the deck of the James Newman ferry at dawn on the south terminal of the Woolwich Ferry in London early January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Senior Deckhand John Waterhouse directs vehicles off the deck of the James Newman ferry before dawn at Woolwich in London early January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The Ernest Bevin Woolwich Ferry sails across the River Thames at first light in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Canary Wharf, London's financial centre, is seen in early morning sunshine behind the Woolwich Ferry viewing tower, which is manned by Traffic Controller Tony Kane in London January 24, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Traffic Controller Tom Cherry watches from the viewing tower at the Woolwich Ferry terminal building in London January 24, 2015. The viewing tower is known to staff as the "bubble." The ramps to the ferry are manually controlled from the "bubble." RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The consul controls which are used to control the ramps to the Woolwich Ferry are seen inside the viewing tower in Woolwich, London January 24, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Traffic Controller Julie Cox directs traffic into the overspill parking area for the Woolwich Ferry in London, January 23, 2015. Cox said that she was the first woman to work for the Woolwich Free Ferry and has worked there for 15 years. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The shadow of a lorry arriving at the parking area for the Woolwich Ferry is cast on a sign advertising the improvement work taking place at the ferry terminal buildings in London, January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Deckhand Johnny Martin guides scrap metal lorry driver Sean Kent onto the James Newman Woolwich Ferry before crossing the River Thames in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Deckhand Albert Smith guides vehicles onto the deck of the James Newman ferry at Woolwich in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Captain Dave Watkins navigates the James Newman ferry across the River Thames early in the morning at Woolwich, London January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Fuel gauges are seen in the engine room of the James Newman Woolwich Ferry in London January 23, 2015. Each ferry has a Boat Engineer on board for every crossing, who monitors the engines. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The James Newman Woolwich Ferry crosses the River Thames in front of Canary Wharf, London's financial district February 6, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Scrap metal truck driver Sean Kent looks out over the River Thames while onboard the James Newman Woolwich Ferry in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Empty seats are seen on the passeneger deck of the James Newman Woolwich Ferry as a woman uses a mobile phone during a crossing of the River Thames in London February 16, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Senior Deckhand John Waterhouse takes a break from work on the James Newman ferry in Woolwich, London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Scrap metal truck driver Sean Kent drives up the ramp from the Woolwich Ferry after crossing the River Thames in London, February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The Ernest Bevin ferry crosses the River Thames seen from steps that lead down to the bank at low tide near the south terminal of the Woolwich Ferry in London, January 11, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Procurement Officer James Carter poses for a picture at the hatch of the storeroom in the workshop for the Woolwich Ferry in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Chargehand Terry Hanlan clears the bench in the Woolwich Ferry workshop in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Marine plumber Gary Delieu, who has worked for the Woolwich Ferry for 35 years, makes gaskets for piping in the plumbers' workshop in London January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Boiler Maker Paul Rice (L), who has worked for the Woolwich Ferry for 35 years, poses for a picture with colleague Michael Creasey in the workshop in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Electricians Tony Dunt (L), Danny Mitchell and Ian Hastings (R) pose for a picture in the Woolwich Ferry workshop in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Cables and supplies are stored ready for use in the electrical room of the Woolwich Ferry workshop in London January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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Boiler Maker Paul Rice, who has worked for the Woolwich Ferry for 35 years, walks onto the John Burns ferry that is undergoing repairs in London February 5, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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A damaged Voith Schneider Propeller unit is lifted by crane from the John Burns ferry at Woolwich in London February 16, 2015. Four out of five blades had snapped off. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Fitters use blow torches to heat up and loosen part of a damaged Voith Schneider Propeller unit as it is lifted by crane out of the John Burns ferry at the north terminal of the Woolwich Ferry in London February 16, 2015. Four out of five blades had snapped off. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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People walk along the Woolwich pedestrian tunnel which links Woolwich to North Woolwich, Newham, London January 24, 2105. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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The Ernest Bevin ferry is seen from the James Newman ferry as it approaches the Woolwich Ferry south terminal while crossing the River Thames in London January 23, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Paddle steamers are seen in this March 30, 1889 etching from the Illustrated London News entitled 'Free Ferry across the Thames at Woolwich'. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

Life On The Woolwich Ferry
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Lights are reflected in the River Thames, as flats in Woolwich are seen through the wheelhouse of the James Newman ferry, before dawn in London February 7, 2015. RUSSELL BOYCE/REUTERS

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