The service has required a subsidy from KCC and Thurrock Council since 2000 as the passenger revenue alone is not sufficient to cover costs. Today the contract provides a sailing every half an hour between 0540 and 1900 on Mondays to Saturdays and over 100,000 journeys per year are made on the service.
As part of negotiations with the operator around a recent contract extension, Thurrock Council, which is in special financial measures, has advised KCC it has concerns about its ability to fund the service in the longer term and currently, the subsidy is being funded exclusively by KCC.
Based on current costs, KCC’s budget allows for a subsidy of £55k per annum to support the ferry but without further external funding, and accounting for the likely cost of a new contract, KCC would likely have to allocate over £200,000 a year to sustain the service which would be an additional pressure to a fully allocated budget.
Due to the financial pressures KCC is facing, it is unclear whether KCC could commit to funding the service in its entirety moving forward and the funding that the council has historically made available would not be enough on its own to sustain the service. This means that there is uncertainty about the future of the service beyond the end of the current contract which expires at the end of March 2024. The council will therefore be running public consultation to understand how the service is used and what the impacts would be if it were to stop running.
“As KCC is now the sole authority subsidising this service, we have a responsibility to the Kent council taxpayer to ensure we are spending money wisely.”
KCC’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Neil Baker, said: “We understand the important role this ferry service has in serving both Gravesend and Tilbury.
“As KCC is now the sole authority subsidising this service, we have a responsibility to the Kent council taxpayer to ensure we are spending money wisely.
“I am keen to get people’s views on this service, which is why I’ve instructed my team to launch a public consultation to help inform any decisions that are made in future.”
The consultation is expected to run in January. Full details and further information will be published on the KCC website.