Duck Boats could return to the Thames as a ferry service while Hammersmith Bridge is shut


Steeped in military history, these amphibious vessels ploughed up the beaches of Normandy carrying supplies to the allied troops during D-Day.

And now bright yellow duck boats could come to the rescue of Londoners by ferrying them across the River Thames while Hammersmith Bridge remains closed.

MailOnline can reveal that London Duck Tours has thrown its hat into the ring to run a shuttle service from the north and south banks of the river. 

Their pitch comes after a Government taskforce said its preferred replacement pedestrian route is a temporary boat crossing operated by TfL. 

But John Bigos, managing director of London Duck Tours, believes his crafts are uniquely placed to execute the function owing to their capability both in water and on road.

Bright yellow duck boats could come to the rescue of Londoners by ferrying them across the River Thames while Hammersmith Bridge remains closed

There were memorable scenes in 2013 when one of the duck boat caught fire outside the Houses of Parliament

There were memorable scenes in 2013 when one of the duck boat caught fire outside the Houses of Parliament

Passengers were forced toleap into the River Thames as the flames take hold at the bow of the London Duck Tours boat when it caught fire outside the Houses of Parliament in 2013

Passengers were forced toleap into the River Thames as the flames take hold at the bow of the London Duck Tours boat when it caught fire outside the Houses of Parliament in 2013

MailOnline can reveal that London Duck Tours has thrown its hat into the ring to run a shuttle service from the north and south banks of the river

MailOnline can reveal that London Duck Tours has thrown its hat into the ring to run a shuttle service from the north and south banks of the river

The amphibious vessels ploughed up the beaches of Normandy carrying supplies to the allied troops on D-Day

The amphibious vessels ploughed up the beaches of Normandy carrying supplies to the allied troops on D-Day

He has mapped out a blueprint which would see the duck boats pick up passengers on shore, before driving to the riverfront and driving into the water. 

He insisted that the firm had an ‘excellent safety’ record, despite memorable scenes in 2013 when one of the duck boat caught fire outside the Houses of Parliament.  

Mr Bigos has sent his proposal to the Port of London Authority and TfL, but fears the taskforce will not take it seriously.  

But he stressed: ‘We would be creating local employment, and would be able to pick up on land on both sides of the river using TfL approved bus stops.’  

London Duck Tours has not commercially operated since 2017, when it lost its slipway in Vauxhall as part of a new sewer system, but has kept eight duck boats in storage and could be operational in two weeks.

A powerpoint presentation has been drawn up setting out London Duck Tours' stall

A powerpoint presentation has been drawn up setting out London Duck Tours’ stall

LDT has mapped out a blueprint which would see the duck boats pick up passengers on shore, before driving to the riverfront and driving into the water

LDT has mapped out a blueprint which would see the duck boats pick up passengers on shore, before driving to the riverfront and driving into the water

A powerpoint presentation setting out its stall says: ‘The ducks are environmentally friendly with modern euro engines meeting the current emission standards. 

‘Vehicles carry 30 passengers thus potential to transfer 180 passengers per hour per boat.’ 

It adds: ‘We have over 15 years’ operating experience on the tidal River Thames and have carried over 1.8 million passengers between since 2003 and 2017.

Asked if people he thought people would be willing to travel part of their daily commute by boat, Mr Bigos reeled off a list of impressive clientele over the years, including then deputy prime minister John Prescott and Victoria Beckham. 

Ducks got their name from DUKW, as they were known when manufactured during the Second World War.  

Neither TfL nor the Port of London Authority commented on London Duck Tour’s pitch. 

But Londoners have been aching for a replacement since the bridge’s closure in April 2019 when they were forced to use other crossings further down the river. 

Last night the Department for Transport said it was committed to implementing a solution for pedestrians and cyclists by early next year at the latest.

Chaired by transport minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the fourth meeting of the group is also mooting emergency stabilisation works to the bridge.

London Duck Tours has not commercially operated since 2017, when it lost its slipway in Vauxhall as part of a new sewer system, but has kept eight duck boats in storage and could be operational in two weeks

London Duck Tours has not commercially operated since 2017, when it lost its slipway in Vauxhall as part of a new sewer system, but has kept eight duck boats in storage and could be operational in two weeks

The 133-year-old bridge in west London was closed 'indefinitely' to motorists in April last year

The 133-year-old bridge in west London was closed ‘indefinitely’ to motorists in April last year

Project Director Dana Skelley said: ‘Today the taskforce progressed options for a temporary solution for pedestrian and cycling traffic, including a TfL-run ferry service and emergency stabilisation works. 

‘All work is aimed to allow Londoners to quickly and safely across the river. We are committed to this being in place as soon as is possible and by early 2021 at the latest.’

It is unclear what form the ferry will take, but a source said it would have to be a ‘serious licensed craft’ capable of fighting the area’s strong tides.

The mothers and fathers at St Paul’s all-boy school were supposedly using small ‘tin fish’-style coaching boats. 

The source added that its exact location had not yet been fleshed out but it would need to be somewhere with good links on the land.

It recently emerged that it will be at least nine months before £46million of work can make Hammersmith Bridge safe again for cyclists and pedestrians. 

It could cost as much as £163million and take two years for cars to get back to using it. 

Hammersmith Bridge has become a political swingball, with both Conservatives and Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan batting responsibility back to the other for failing to fix it. 

Costs to reopen the bridge run into hundreds of millions of pounds and will take years

Costs to reopen the bridge run into hundreds of millions of pounds and will take years

In a blazing war of words last month, Tory London Assembly member Tony Arbour told the Mayor he should ‘man up’ and take ownership of the problem because he had caused an ‘existential crisis’ for local businesses. 

Mr Khan hit back: ‘It’s not an issue of ‘manning up,’ it’s a question of the Government stepping up and providing the funding so desperately needed by residents and businesses.’ 

The Mayor has also come under fire for gumming up London’s road with new ‘Covid-friendly’ traffic-calming measures and schemes to fine motorists, as well as wide cycle lanes.

Bridge closures have blighted London in recent months. In August Tower Bridge caused gridlock as it closed for 48 hours after it suffered ‘technical issues’ resulting in the iconic structure remaining in the upright position. 

Vauxhall Bridge and London Bridge also cause tailbacks when they closed for urgent repair work.

Last night’s taskforce was attended by London Boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Richmond upon Thames, the Greater London Authority and the Port of London Authority to thrash out a solution.

Hammersmith Bridge has become a political swingball, with both Conservatives and Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan batting responsibility back to the other for failing to fix it

Hammersmith Bridge has become a political swingball, with both Conservatives and Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan batting responsibility back to the other for failing to fix it

Ms Skelley said: ‘The taskforce discussed the impact of the closure of the River Thames and the urgency of re-opening the river as soon as it is safe to do so. 

‘Urgent work has begun, involving the Port of London Authority, with the aim of completing the risk assessment by November at the latest.

‘Meanwhile Professor Norman Fleck, a fracture mechanics and materials expert advising the taskforce, has already held constructive conversations with engineers – he will continue to do so to further progress plans for the bridge’s re-opening. 

‘As a group, we continue to work tirelessly to identify the issues, solutions and timelines for re-opening the bridge and will provide more information on these in due course.

‘The taskforce is fully aware of the high level of public interest in the work of the taskforce and are grateful for the constructive suggestions which have been forthcoming from both groups and individuals. 

‘We will hold a virtual meeting with resident representatives to allow them to put their questions directly to senior representatives from the taskforce.’

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