The two new state-of-the-art boats being delivered to the Woolwich Ferry next year have been officially named.

They are being called the Ben Woollacott, after a former deckhand who died working on the ferry, and Dame Vera Lynn, the legendary singer from east London.

Ben Woollacott's family has worked on the river for years - the deckhand was the sixth generation of famous Thames 'watermen'. They said they were delighted with the choice of name.

`Along with his crew mates and friends of the river, we thank Transport for London for naming one of the new Woolwich ferries after Ben,' they said. `It's a beautiful way to remember a son who loved this river heart and soul, a son dearly missed but now certainly never forgotten.'

Dame Vera Lynn said: "It is wonderful to hear that one of the new boats for the Woolwich Ferry service is to be named in my honour. I am truly humbled to have been chosen.'

The new vessels, costing around £20 million for both, are being constructed by Polish boat builders Remontowa and will extend the life of the historic river crossing for years to come.

They will come with specialised 'hybrid' engines allowing them to run on electricity generated by the motors.

To reduce emissions even more, they will be fitted with special state-of-the-art systems to treat their exhausts, cutting harmful nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.

Mark Geldard, TfL's Rivers Services Manager, said: `These brand new environment-friendly ferries will give foot passengers and motorists a much-improved way of crossing the river, while helping to ensure cleaner air for Londoners. We're delighted with the choice of names. These will now be welded onto the hulls of these specially designed boats as their construction continues.'

The boats' advanced design and use of the very latest marine technology means they will require minimum maintenance when they enter service late in 2018. This means only two boats will be required to operate the services, rather than the current three. They'll be able to carry 40 cars each, an improvement of 14 per cent on the current vessels.

The new ferries will complement a range of new river crossings in East London recently announced by the Mayor of London. Along with the proposed Silvertown Tunnel, a proposed extension of the DLR from Gallions Reach to Thamesmead and the Elizabeth line which will open in 2018, the Woolwich ferry will provide quick and easy access across the Thames.


Notes to Editors:

  • Woolwich Ferry was made free to the public in 1889.
  • Current vessels and berthing infrastructure have been in operation since the mid 1960's.
  • Crossing provides an important link in the east London strategic highway network, connecting the A406 North Circular with the A205 South Circular.
  • New vessels will operate at same speed but will have a greater deck capacity and will also be more robust and efficient - improving service availability and journey reliability for passengers.
  • Dame Vera Lynn first took to the stage aged seven and in the 1930s made her name in the theatres of the West End. She is best known for her 1939 recording of 'We'll Meet Again', the nostalgic lyrics of which were popular during World War 2. She achieved national treasure status when British servicemen named her their favorite musical performer and she became known as the Forces' Sweetheart.
  • Dame Vera Lynn has Children's Charity dedicated to supporting families with children under five years old with cerebral palsy and motor-learning difficulties. Details can be found here
  • Ben Woollacott was a 19-year-old deckhand when he fell from the Earnest Bevin Woolwich Ferry in 2011 and died. The Woolwich Ferry was operated by Serco then, not the current operators Briggs Marine. Serco was fined £200,000 over the death, after being found guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of its crew.