Ferry skipper to retire after three decades

Tom Bennett, who has captained the cross-Tyne Shields Ferry for 30 years.

Tom Bennett, who has captained the cross-Tyne Shields Ferry for 30 years.

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A ferry skipper is bowing out after three decades of service on the River Tyne.

Tom Bennett, who has captained the cross-Tyne Shields Ferry for 30 years, will say farewell to his colleagues and passengers on May 7.

Tom, 63, of Westoe in South Shields, said: “I’ve had a great time. It’s such a wonderful job driving the Shields Ferry across the Tyne.

“I’ve worked with some great people over these last 30 years. I’ve also seen some huge changes along the banks of the river.

“I’ll miss everyone, but I am looking forward to retirement.”

Three decades in the ferry’s wheelhouse has seen Tom make millions of river crossings between North and South Shields.

He said: “We were sat trying to work how many miles I’d covered one day, it’s about half a mile across the river and then half a mile back, times 35 trips a day, seven days a week.

“It works out at about two-and-a-half times around the world.”

Tom has had many memorable trips over his career.

But one of his favourites was when Princess Anne launched Spirit of the Tyne in 2007.

He said: “She was very lovely and her lady in waiting was very nice too. At the time it was like a new start for us all with the new Ferry.

“I think that was definitely one of my most memorable moments.”

One of the main things that Tom has loved about his ferry job is the fresh air.

He said: I think I’ll be missing the fresh air really, as I know a lot of people are stuck in offices. I know for a fact there will be about 200 people in for my job when I leave; everyone wants to be a ferry skipper.”

Tom will not be taking it too easy when he retires. As well as spending more time with his wife Carol, and his son Thomas, who is a chemistry research fellow at the University of Cambridge, he plans to keep busy working on his allotment.

To find out more about the Shields Ferry go to www.nexus.org.uk/ferry or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theshieldsferry