New Woolwich Ferry vessels take to the water for the first time

Ben Woollacott
Ben Woollacott takes the the water at a shipyard in Gdansk

The two new boats that will run the Woolwich Ferry from 2019 have been successfully launched for the first time at their shipyard in Poland.

Dame Vera Lynn and Ben Woollacott took to the water at the Rementowa shipyard in Gdansk earlier this week, ahead of the two-month closure of the ferry service this autumn, which will see replace and modernise facilities.

The two boats, costing £20 million each, are replacing the existing three vessels – Ernest Bevin, John Burns and James Newman – which have plied the route since 1963. They will be the fourth generation of ferries since the free service began in 1889.

They will now be fitted out and painted before undergoing sea trials. They are named after notable figures from each side of the Thames: wartime entertainer Dame Vera Lynn, 101, was born in East Ham; while Ben Wollacott was a 19-year-old deckhand from Swanley who drowned in 2011 while preparing one of the ferries for service.

Dame Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn gets ready for her London debut

The boats will be able to carry 150 passengers and 40 vehicles, have a separate space for cyclists and will provide step-free access. TfL says they will also be quieter and have fewer emissions, with two filtering systems like the ones used on London buses.

Last year, designers Studio Octopi proposed reusing the three old ferries as a home for Parliament while it is being restored.

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