Hammersmith Academy - FRBC

Fulham Reach Boat Club endangered by Hammersmith Bridge ferry proposal

A Fulham rowing charity is encouraging an alternative route for the Hammersmith ferry, with a proposed course threatening to end the charity’s activities altogether.

Fulham Reach Boat Club (FRBC), a community-based charity whose flagship programme provides rowing sessions for schools in the borough, could face closure should the ferry run from Harrods Wharf.

The Bridge has been closed since April 2019 due to structural damage, with proposals recently submitted to Transport for London for the implementation of a nearby ferry service.

A terminal at Harrods Wharf would cut straight through the section of the river in which the club operates, leading to safety concerns among the charity’s officials.

Chief operations officer Yolande Joubert said: “The proposal coming from Harrods Wharf across the river is a massive issue for us.

“A lot of the time we’ve got really novice crews for whom it takes that little bit longer to get up and running.

“We would never send anyone out, even our most experienced members, into that situation where you’ve got a ferry through your direct line.

“They’ve said you can turn a little bit further down but it’s still incredibly dangerous.”

Ahead of a Richmond Council virtual public meeting regarding the bridge on March 17, FRBC is instead proposing that the ferry runs in the area of the river immediately near the bridge.

As well as easing safety concerns, the charity believes the new route makes far more sense from a logistical perspective too.

The Harrods Wharf service would see passengers forced to walk a few hundred metres from the bridge just to board the ferry, on an already congested towpath.

Joubert said: “Not only is it a lot safer for everyone but it would be a much more efficient process for passengers.

“It just makes sense, if you were running a ferry you would just go across the small section of river rather than the lengthy one.

“We’re fully supportive of a ferry, but what we’d really like is the Bridge fixed because that would solve so many problems.”

Formed in 2014, FRBC’s state school rowing programme is the club’s biggest project, teaching students from year nine onwards.

With several students reaching a national level, the programme has been hugely successful, but like many charities, the club has been forced to adapt during the pandemic.

Following the mass closure of schools in March last year, FRBC has been running online sessions to continue the programmes.

The club has welcomed news of schools reopening throughout the country this week, with junior courses scheduled for the upcoming holidays.

Students rowing on the river via Fulham Reach Boat Club.
AN EITHER-OAR SITUATION: The club had over 10,000 participants across 10 schools between September 2019 and March 2020

Their ‘boats not bars’ scheme, which sees prisoners given an indoor rowing programme has also proved massively successful.

On release, participants are encouraged to visit the club to continue their training on the water, easing their transition and reducing reoffending rates.

Joubert said: “Sport is a fantastic leveller. Anyone can come down here and you can talk about rowing, you can talk about the weather, you can talk about river.

“Nobody talks about what they do for work or what their history is and it just creates a really good opportunity for people who have been in prison to break the cycle and form new friendship groups and new interests so that they’re not in that environment where they’re tempted to reoffend.”

Image credits: Fulham Reach Boat Club

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