Anyone using the Woolwich Ferry within the last year will have noticed a severe deterioration in the service.
The route which Boris Johnson transferred to Serco last year, has run with just two or even one boat for much of the year.
So poorly operated has it been that at one point Serco closed the entire crossing due to no seaworthy boats being available.
The reasons for this were revealed in full farcical detail today:
Writing in response to a question from one local Assembly Member, Boris explains that:
"During 2009, all three ferry boats – which are now 45 years old - had to undergo their 5 yearly out-of-water surveys in order to certify their use for the next 5 years. This work is undertaken in Hull where the maintenance facility is located."
Okay, so the boats had to be surveyed. Why did it take so long?
"When the first boat returned from its survey, it developed a problem with one of its propulsion units. Unfortunately this left a one boat service as the second ferry was already on its way to Hull. At this point it was decided to extend the scope of the survey on the remaining two boats, to include an overhaul of the propulsion units, given the boats’ age. The first ferry boat was subsequently fixed in Woolwich.
It goes on:
Shortly after the second boat returned, one of its propulsion units developed an oil leak. Despite the experience of the boatyard’s staff, who carried out the overhaul, and an engineer from the manufacturer, the leak proved very difficult to trace and rectify. This defect occurred twice and resulted in a combined loss of service of 33 days...
"More recently, one of the ferry engines suffered a broken governor spring. Then, on 5 December, another ferry struck a piece of floating debris. This resulted in serious damage to one of the propulsion units and the unit is being exchanged for an overhauled one. As the third ferry was in Hull at the time, consequently the Woolwich Ferry service had to be suspended until later that day.
What a shambles.
It is anticipated that once the third out-of-water survey is completed at the end of the year and the ferry is delivered back to Woolwich, then the reliability of the service will significantly improve."
Earlier this year Boris awarded operation of his flagship bike hire scheme to Serco.
Hopefully their level of service will "significantly improve" quite soon.