FAQ's - Torpoint Ferry
Ferry - Frequently Asked Questions
- Why don't the ferries run exactly to time every time?
- What do we tweet and what don't we tweet (or Facebook)
- First on/Last off
- Pulling up
- Why do cycles and motorbikes get priority?
- Priority/Bus lane
- Loading (General)
- Buses, buses and buses!
- Why do we sometimes let people out of lanes to queue by beach when no ferry has arrived
- No delays?
- Why don't you go at top speed?
- Who gets priority?
- As a motorcyclist, do I have to use the priority lane when it is quiet?
- What are shipping movements?
- Why do you wait off the beach rather than continue to load when there are shipping movements?
- When I'm dropping someone off, why am I sometimes kept waiting at Tamar St access road?
- As a motorcyclist, if I arrive at the last minute can I still board the ferry?
- When an Ambulance arrives and is flashing its blue lights, why do you still load other vehicles?
- Vending machines and concession areas.
- Essential maintenance - what does it mean?
- Planned & Major maintenance
- Why don't you use the 3rd Ferry when there are problems or queues?
Why don't the ferries run exactly to time every time?
We have a very good record of not missing crossings but sometime there are circumstances where this does happen but we are currently running at 99.5% of crossings completed in last 12 months.
What do we tweet and what don't we tweet (or Facebook)
We need to draw a balance between keeping people informed and not swamping them with minor details. There are no hard and fast rules and a judgement is made depending on traffic levels.
First on/Last off
We do not actually operate a true "first on - last off" system but we appreciate that it seems that way sometimes! There are a number of factors and reasons and they are detailed below. We believe we load in the most efficient way possible to get the maximum number of crossings per hour, although we are always ready to listen to suggestions. Sometimes you appear to 'gain' and sometimes you appear to 'lose' but overall we get people across in the quickest average time.
Why doesn't someone 'pull up' all the cars so there are smaller gaps in between them and therefore making room for more cars?
Why do cycles and motorbikes get priority?
They do not actually get priority but as they are currently allowed to use the bus lane it does mean they will get the next available ferry.
Use of this lane is very restricted and usually this is just buses (see separate section for full details), blue light vehicles and motorbikes (see separate section for full details). We do have a small number of others that have the right to use it, usually for medically related reasons. Funeral and wedding cars can sometimes get access if checked and booked in advance.
Why do we not start loading at the front of lane one, fill it, load lane two, fill it and so on is often asked and there are a number of key factors that we take into account when loading. There are many others but these are the main ones.
Buses, buses and buses!
We get a lot of questions about buses and whether or why they should or shouldn't use the ferry. Both Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council are committed to a public transport network and as such so are we.
Why do we sometimes let people out of lanes to queue by beach when no ferry has arrived
This is usually so we can clear a lane to let more people join from queuing up the road this especially happens when busy. Sometimes it is to make sure that people don't try and sneak in at the back of a half emptied lane and jump the queues. Occasionally maintenance staff or vehicles need access and we move vehicles to cause the least amount of disruption.
Why do you say that there are no delays when I'm sat in the lanes waiting for a ferry and there are none on the beach? We use similar terminology to train companies, if you arrive early for a train and have to wait, it doesn't mean the train is delayed. If we are running to timetable (or as close as reasonably possible) and clearing the lanes each trip then there is no delay. If there are so many people in front of you that you wouldn't catch the first available ferry or the timetabled ferry is significantly late running then we start talking about delays
Why don't you go at top speed?
We go a speed to try and keep to the timetable but the speed is affected by many factors. Timetable isn't based on absolute fastest crossing times as they can be reduced by weather conditions especially wind, tides, other vessels, size of load but rather a time that should be achievable in most conditions. This also allows for a very small amount of contingency to help catch up lost time or when taking blue lights.
Who gets priority?
Very few vehicles get priority generally it is just buses, emergency services and some other regular ones that are usually related to difficult medical conditions. We also allow hearses and wedding cars if requested in advance and there is the possibility of missing the ferry otherwise.
As a motorcyclist, do I have to use the priority lane when it is quiet?
Motorcycles and bicycles are given a concession whereby they do not have to queue with other traffic, although they are not classed as priority vehicles such as buses and ambulances. If it is quiet and traffic is free flowing through the marshalling lanes then please follow other traffic through the open lane and wait at the top of the beach.
What are shipping movements?
We have to obey the Queen's Harbour Master, the official responsible for the safety of shipping using the Port of Plymouth, and we are often instructed to stop and wait for other shipping to pass over the ferry chain tracks.
Why do you wait off the beach rather than continue to load when there are shipping movements?
There are two main reasons for this...
When I'm dropping someone off, why am I sometimes kept waiting at Tamar St access road?
During busy rush hours it is important to keep a constant traffic flow to the ferries, so as to keep on time. 7 minutes to load and unload approximately 70 vehicles. Any delay will have a knock on effect to the following departure time for that ferry. Any vehicle waiting at Tamar St will be given time to drop off passengers once the ferry has loaded.
As a motorcyclist, if I arrive at the last minute can I still board the ferry?
On some occasions, it is practical to let a motorcyclist through at the last moment, while cars are still boarding. At other times the ferry may be full, has requested no more bikes, or been given clearance to depart and has begun the departure routine. On these occasions no last minute motorbikes will be taken aboard. Please allow sufficient time when planning your journey.
When an Ambulance arrives and is flashing its blue lights, why do you still load other vehicles?
We have a very close working relationship with the emergency services. We recognise the part we play in bringing help to the community of Torpoint and surrounding area. When you see an emergency vehicle about to board the ferry, we ask that you start your engine and be prepared to move as soon as the lights change. The ferry has to wait until all vehicles have disembarked before leaving. We will endeavour to load as many vehicles as possible while this takes place without delaying departure.
Vending machines and concession areas.
Vending/Fruit machines are not owned or run by Torpoint Ferry and we don't have access to them for breakdowns or refunds.
Essential maintenance - what does it mean?
You will often see a Tweet and Facebook message saying a ferry has been delayed for a short time due to essential maintenance. The ferries are complex machines and require regular or planned maintenance to keep the machinery operating correctly, an example being an oil change for a diesel. This type of maintenance is normally completed with no disruption to the service
Planned & Major maintenance
Whilst most planned maintenance can be achieved without disrupting the ferry service there are certain major evolutions such as the change of one of the main chains that due to the time, manpower or tidal restrictions can only be done by taking a ferry out of service. A decision to do this is not taken likely and all is done to give prior notice and keep the disruption to the service to a minimum.
Why don't you use the 3rd Ferry when there are problems or queues?
Whilst in an ideal world it would be great to have the 3rd Ferry on standby to go into service at a moment's notice this is not viable for various reasons.