You have just a couple of weeks to be able to take a trip on the Tilbury to Gravesend ferry before it closes due to funding problems.

(c) JetStream

The ferry is the last public crossing point across the Thames before it reaches the sea and there’s been a river crossing here for at least 450 years. Originally owned by the  Lord of the Manor of Parrock, in 1694 the ferry ownership was split between Gravesend Town Council and Tilbury Fort. In 1862, the London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway (LTS) bought the ferry and operated it until 1984. Since then, it’s been managed by the two councils on either side of the Thames using contracted suppliers.

However, the current ferry operator says it has been unable to secure long-term funding from Kent County Council to keep operating the service. They were offered short-term extensions, but they say that wasn’t tenable for their business or staff.

As a result, the last ferry will leave on Saturday 30th March 2024.

(Technically, the contract expires on 31st March, but the ferry doesn’t run on Sundays)

It’s not the complete end of the service — more of a protracted temporary closure as the council is looking around for another ferry company to operate the service, but it won’t be in place anytime soon. A replacement is needed as the ferry carries around 100,000 people a year, and the closure of the 5-minute ferry link between the two sides of the Thames would leave people with a roughly 2-hour trip via the Dartford crossing.

So, if you fancy a trip on the ferry as it is, you have until the end of the month to do so.

I am writing though, because for transport nerds, there’s a bonus to consider — and that’s because you can add in a trip on a parliamentary rail replacement bus service that’s been running for over 30 years.

The northern ferry pier is next to the remains of Tilbury Riverside railway station, which closed in 1992, but there’s still to this day a rail replacement bus service between the ferry and the nearby Tilbury Town railway station. So, if you buy a paper ticket to Tilbury – make certain it says “Tilbury Town or Riverside”, and you can catch the half-hourly 99 bus from outside Tilbury Town station (London bound platform side) to the ferry for free — a parliamentary rail replacement bus service.

After catching the ferry to Gravesend, you can either return to Tilbury Town the same way or take a separate route home via Gravesend.

The ferry is also close to Tilbury Fort, which is very much worth a visit if you’ve never been.

The ferry operates Monday to Saturday – not on Sundays.


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  1. Keith says:

    Very bad! This ferry is there due to royal charter and the owners, ie, Thurrock and kc councils have to provide a service. This is why British Rail/sealink could not get rid of it for decades. Why did they take it on knowing their obligations?!?! I hope someone takes the councils to court!

  2. NG says:

    The councils, as all of us know, are being financially screwed by the current misgovernment.
    And – it’s Public Transport & it was railway-related, so expect no help from that quarter, either.
    As Keith says, it’s an utter disgrace & an apt reflection on the times.

  3. TC says:

    I feel for the school kids and commuters who rely on this service – surely a peak hour service as a minimum should be retained in the short term until a new contract can be agreed

  4. Les Hearson says:

    Of course the real problem here is Thurrock Council which as a result of getting involved with some very dodgy investments and people last year effectively went bankrupt. As such they have not paid their half ot the required ferry subsidy from October to March. Kent County Council have instead been forced to pay both their and Thurrocks apportionment.Thurrock recently surprisingly found the funding for ’24-’25 as soon as questions were raised in parliament by raiding one of thieir planning budgets(perhaps they wanted to save Rishi from embarassment). Jetstream meanwhile seem to have grown tired of having to make forward plans whilst receiving ever shorter contracts and have walked. Kent CC are currently in talks with the other company that has tendered for the route in recent years.

  5. Simmo says:

    This closure is a disgrace as people forced to use the Dartford crossing will have to dip into their pockets to pay towards a crossing point that should have paid for itself by now. This may even cause more kids to miss school because of the length and the cost of the journey.

  6. Bob Gibbs says:

    I believe the ferry has already closed as when I visited two weeks ago it definitely was not running!

  7. MarkW says:

    I was there today (Wednesday 27th) – it’s definitely still running. The last days are tomorrow (Thursday 28th) and Saturday 30th, as it doesn’t run on Sundays or Bank Holidays.

  8. Keith Harris says:

    This ferry company’s boats were always breaking down, Soon as they shut the ferry service, they advertised boats trips from Gravesend to Southend, should think the RNLB Service at Southend will be kept busy rescuing them.

  9. Lin Spencer says:

    Such a shame for this ferry closure after being around for many many years. Strange as it is that nobody has mentioned the extra carbon footprint that this closures will cause, now that all the users will have to travel the long way round! Trouble is once they close an amenity it’s not very often that it’s reinstated!

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