New ferry to cross the Mersey as first upgrade for 60 years announced

<span>Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA</span>
Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

They are older than the Gerry and the Pacemakers song that made them world famous, but now the Mersey ferries have been granted an addition to the fleet – 60 years after the last one was built.

A new, more environmentally friendly ferry is being built to add to the current fleet and an older one will be refurbished, as part of a raft of funding to regenerate parts of the River Mersey.

The Liverpool metro mayor, Steve Rotherham, said the new ferry will be greener than the current fleet, which are “becoming harder and harder to maintain”.

“The Mersey ferries are not only a vital transport link between communities in the Liverpool city region, they’re also an important part of our identity,” he said.

“They’re well-loved by both residents and tourists alike, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to our area each year. But, as the current vessels are older than the Gerry and the Pacemakers song that helped make them world famous, they are becoming harder and harder to maintain and definitely in need of an upgrade.”

He added: “It’s fantastic news for the region, and a fitting way to continue the legacy of Gerry Marsden and the Mersey ferries. There have been boats crossing the Mersey since the 12th century and, thanks to our investment, here they’ll stay.”

The contract to build the new ferry has been handed to the Damen shipyard in the Netherlands, a decision that has been criticised locally as Merseyside has its own shipyard, which has built them previously

Government rules forced the Liverpool city region bosses to put the contract out to tender across Europe, despite having the Cammell Laird shipyard on the Mersey, which built 15 Mersey ferries going as far back as 1836 and maintains the current fleet.

The company, which employs nearly 700 workers locally, has been granted a contract to refurbish one of the current fleet and carry out final work on the latest ferry in partnership with Damen.

The Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “This is a complete betrayal of a local and highly skilled workforce, it defies belief that a new Mersey ferry won’t be built on the river the ship will serve.

“This is a wholesale failure of the government’s procurement policy, which continues to undermine strategic British industries and threatens jobs and skills.”

The work is part of a 20-year strategy, which also includes multimillion-pound upgrades to Seacombe ferry terminal and the Eureka! Science + Discovery attraction.