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Ship ahoy! Hopes for return of West Lynn to King's Lynn ferry soon

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The takeover of Lynn’s 800-year-old ferry service is a step closer with the prospective buyers gearing up for a September return date.

Ben Ellis and his brother-in-law Richard Stannard are hopeful of taking on the West Lynn Ferry with former owner Gail Kingston describing the negotiations as “looking really, really positive”.

Mrs Kingston and her husband Steve retired in March with the coronavirus proving to be “a step too far” for the couple. And having been unsuccessful with previous attempts to take on the ferry, Mr Ellis is now feeling positive about the progress being made.

The West Lynn Ferry
The West Lynn Ferry

He said: “I have been trying to do this for over 10 years and I have had so many failures and delays but I am over the moon we are nearly there.

“This has been a long time coming and I thought it was never going to happen. It’s historic and we have got to keep it going in Lynn.

“I have had that many customers who know me and have seen my previous attempts in the Lynn News, and they all want it back. Everybody wants it back.”

The prospective buyer has not committed to a definitive date at this point but plenty of work is taking place behind the scenes, including the potential for hand sanitiser stations on both sides of the river. Although the takeover has not been completed at this stage, discussions have been promising.

Mrs Kingston said Mr Ellis and Mr Stannard’s paperwork is currently being processed, and a ferry has been on the river this week to advertise the fact it is returning.

She added: “I would be extremely surprised if anything happened to thwart it, however we have been let down on so many occasions.

“But this is looking really positive. The lockdown forced our retirement.

“We had plans to keep it running until someone took over but Covid proved to be a stretch too far. To be able to comply with the original Covid measures would just have been impossible for us.”

Mr Ellis is a former fisherman who is West Lynn born and bred. He will be finishing his job at Carter Accommodation at the end of this month in order to concentrate on the ferry.

Meanwhile, Mr Stannard works in the boat-building industry and Mr Ellis said they are the “perfect people” to take the ferry on.

Regarding coronavirus safety measures being planned, Mr Ellis said: “We have a few meetings to go to discuss all of this but I can prepare hand sanitiser and my current work has given me information on where to go for this.

“I would only have to sanitise the boat twice a day because it is open air. It will be up to the customers to wear masks.”

Among those who have welcomed the potential return of the ferry is West Norfolk councillor Alex Kemp, who represents the South and West Lynn Ward.

She said: “It’s under wraps and under discussions but it needs to be formally announced.

“That would be excellent. It’s a ready made piece of infrastructure and it’s really important for the town to have.

“A new bus lane is needed as well to help reduce traffic congestion.”

The ferry has linked West Lynn to the main part of Lynn since 1285, offering good views of the town for passengers.

It has been up for sale since 2016, in which time there have been four interested buyers.

The Kingstons ran the service for 20 years with Mrs Kingston saying Steve needed to retire at the age of 69.

Following their announcement back in March, the Kingstons thanked their passengers “from the bottom of their hearts” for being so loyal during their 20 years of work on the River Great Ouse.

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