Thames Clippers boss defends evening fare rise

AA-may21-clippers2.jpgThames Clippers' managing director Sean Collins has defended the decision to put a surcharge on late evening fares from next month.

Late night sailings will be reintroduced from April 1, but season ticket holders will have to pay an extra £2, while Oyster card discounts will not apply. But Mr Collins said the decision was taken after extensive consultation with passengers.

Sailings after 9pm were axed on the riverbus service last November, because of low passenger numbers, causing an outcry from disappointed commuters. The reintroduced services will see eastbound boats leaving Embankment pier at 10.08pm and 11.08pm respectively.

Mr Collins said: "The feedback we have had so far is much more for than against the surcharges. We are responding to customer wishes, and a couple even suggested we increase our season ticket prices, but that would be pushing things a bit too far for everyone else.

"We also didn't expect a positive response to only having one hour frequencies, but people have welcomed it, saying they will use the service to get home from work or the theatre."

seanclipper220WEB.jpgAnd the services could be extended, and retained for next winter if they prove popular.

"I'm pleased we've been able to bring the services back, because I was disappointed about cutting them last winter," said Mr Collins.

"We need an average of 15-20 passengers to make it viable, which I hope won't be too difficult to achieve, and if it works we might even add another service before the end of the summer.

"If the demand is there we'll continue to run the services next winter. We're not a seasonal business, so if it made commercial sense, we'd do it, but last winter it just wasn't economical to keep them running.

"They also link up well with the Boris bikes. The demographic suggests that people who use the boats use the bikes as well, so when the bikes arrive in Canary Wharf it will encourage our passengers to then use the bikes to get to their workplace."

While the Clippers have become an integral part of many Wharfers' commuting experience, there is still a huge amount of untapped potential for river travel.

Mr Collins said: "We could have a boat running from London Bridge to Canary Wharf every four minutes at peak times if we had the right support. We'd only need another four boats in the fleet to be able to do that.

"The trouble is the infrastructure is just not there on the river. Expansion has to start with the piers, and certain ones need investment right away. Tower Pier is being extended, but that won't give us another berth there.

"It's been a problem for a long time, and until TfL get serious about dealing with it, the capacity for river travel will always be limited."