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Ferry crossing jeopardy

PUBLISHED: 10:46 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:36 23 August 2010

AN historic ferry crossing still faces the axe despite council bosses agreeing to continue funding. Thurrock Council provides half the £177,990 annual subsidy to keep the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry running. Although council bosses vowed to continue subs

AN historic ferry crossing still faces the axe despite council bosses agreeing to continue funding.

Thurrock Council provides half the £177,990 annual subsidy to keep the Gravesend to Tilbury ferry running.

Although council bosses vowed to continue subsidising the Lower Thames and Medway Passenger Boat Company which runs the service it will be on a month to month basis.

This week Captain John Potter, who operates the ferry from Gravesend, was warned Thurrock will eventually withdraw all funding. Councillor Neil Rocklisse, cabinet member for transport at Thurrock Council, said: "It is my intention that Thurrock Council will not prop up a private enterprise longer than it has too. Either put up the prices or go out of business, they are going to be the ferry company's only options."

He added: "The contract is between Kent County Council and the ferry. If Thurrock goes to Kent we will pay £1 or £100,000 it doesn't make any difference because at the end of the day if the money isn't paid it is Kent which has defaulted on the contract."

At a full council meeting last Thursday they rejected a £40,000 proposed cut but would not guarantee future funding.

Captain John Potter, who runs the ferry company, is already taking steps to secure separate funding.

A return fare at peak times is £4.50 or workers can buy a week ticket for £20, a fee he claims cannot be increased.

He said: "I will be meeting with Hillary Benn to try and get funding from the government like the Woolwich Ferry.

"If I do what they ask and raise fares people will stop using the ferry. They have to realise that it is the only sensible way to get between Gravesend and Tilbury on public transport."

The threat to the company has seen more than 2000 residents on both sides of the Thames sign a petition to save the ferry, which dates back to the 17th century.

A planned march protesting the threat to the service on Easter Sunday will still go ahead starting at Thurrock Council offices, New Road, Grays from 11am.

The Port of Tilbury has stepped in to provide support for the threatened service with managing Director Peter Glading giving £20,000.

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