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New King Harry Ferry

The hull of the new £2.9 million King Harry Ferry arrived in style on a 60m barge at Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth on Wednesday 12th October. Celebrations began at 8am as a Ponsharden Park and Float passenger boat took nearly 50 dignitaries and staff from King Harry Ferry and Pendennis Shipyard out to sea to greet the hull as it arrived into Falmouth harbour.

The 60m barge will be temporarily sunk to allow the hull to float off and onto a cradle before being taken up the slipway and into the shipyard. The cradle will have 18 Boeing 747 wheels (two more than used on an actual aircraft) to support the hull, which at present weighs 280 tonnes.

The majority of the construction of the ferry is being carried out in Falmouth and the new ferry has an architectural input from the award-winning Grimshaw partnership, which designed the Eden Project. One of their ideas which has been incorporated into the design, is a glass side. Made of toughened glass, it will be on the downstream side of the ferry and will allow passengers to enjoy the views from the ferry, whatever the weather.

Chairman of the King Harry Ferry, David Hodgson, said: "The planning and preparation for a new ferry has taken nearly four years from the date on which the new owners took over, so to see the hull as it comes into Cornwall for the start of the vast majority of the work, is extremely rewarding. Many local people will be working on something which has been and will continue to be, an iconic piece of Cornish history."

He said the need for a new ferry arose from a number of factors. These included the age of the current ferry which is now 30 years old, increasing maintenance costs and a worry of disruption to a service which has gained a reputation for reliability. "The current ferry was designed to take up to 28 cars, however the average car today is 15% longer and wider than they were in 1974, so now a full load is only 23 vehicles. The new ferry will in fact take 32 cars, an average increase of 9 cars per crossing. It will not only be larger, but will be designed with fuel efficiency and noise reduction as key planning criteria. In addition, the greater space between cars will enable easier access."

Mr Hodgson added: "The current ferry has an excellent reliability record and is held in great affection by those who use her, whether on a regular basis or for a single trip whilst on holiday. We must salute the previous owners for commissioning such a wonderful vessel, which is one of only five remaining chain ferries in the country. It is considered not only an important part of the maritime history of Cornwall but an essential line of communication. The benefits of a new ferry will include continuation of the uninterrupted service which customers currently enjoy, reduced queuing times particularly in the summer months, a more environmentally friendly ferry, as well as economic benefits arising from providing more jobs, the ability to carry more vehicles thus increasing access to the Roseland," Mr Hodgson said.

Mike Carr, commercial director of Pendennis Shipyard said: "Today marks a significant milestone in the new ferry's construction. Later this week the ferry will be hauled up our slipway, on a custom built cradle, where all the outfitting will be carried out prior to delivery in the spring next year. Whilst Pendennis have been entrusted with the entire design and build of the new ferry, we would like to thank the King Harry Ferry team in particular Tim Light and Colin Warren for their invaluable help and assistance. Their care, attention and involvement at every stage of the project has ensured that the new ferry will be the most efficient and reliable vessel of its kind in service. We truly hope that this new Cornish product will stand the test of time and live up to the reputation of her predecessor."

Staff from Pendennis Shipyard will begin work straight away. The vessel's finished areas will be shielded from the elements whilst extensive engineering, electrical, outfitting and joinery work is carried out to complete the project in time for her delivery next spring.

Almost £1 million is coming from Objective One through the European Regional Development Fund and the remainder from the shareholders of the ferry company. Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Objective One Partnership, said: "This new and improved vessel will continue a long tradition of transport at this particular part of the River Fal. A newer, larger King Harry Ferry on this beautiful and essential route will meet the increasing needs of tourism, business and the local population. The project aims to secure and create jobs and provide a greener form of transport which is sympathetic to the special environment."

The King Harry Ferry has been in operation since 1889. A steam ferry was in operation until 1956 when conversion was made to diesel electric propulsion. There are conflicting stories about the name of King Harry. The more likely one is that many years ago, a small chapel stood on the Philleigh side of the passage, (now all that remains of this is a small pile of stones, covered in moss and lichen) and was mentioned in 1528 as "The Chapel of St Mary and King Henry" and was built to commemorate King Henry VI, the Lancastrian King, who was murdered in 1471.

During the war years the ferry was more or less taken over by the forces, especially the American Navy and Army, with General Eisenhower also being a passenger whilst inspecting preparations for D-Day. The service nearly stopped due to lack of decent burning coal until the Americans stepped in and provided the ferry company with good coal from the States.

For further information please contact Ginny Kay on 01872 861914, or Beverley Stables on 01326 310232.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the King Harry Ferry Project through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Editor's notes:

Research has identified that:

In 2000 the ferry carried 226,000 cars per year and that this has now increased to 270,000.

12% of all business people living on the Roseland do not use the ferry due to the risk of long queues.

Currently customers using the ferry reduce traffic through Truro by 4.5%.


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439