The Torpoint Ferry is a car and pedestrian chain ferry, connecting the A374 road which crosses the Hamoaze, a stretch of water at the mouth of the River Tamar, between Devonport in Plymouth and Torpoint in Cornwall. The service was established in 1791 and chain ferry operations were introduced by James Meadows Rendel in 1832.
The route is currently served by three ferries, named after three rivers in the area: Tamar II, Lynher II and Plym II. Each ferry carries 73 cars and operates using its own set of slipways and parallel chains, with a vehicle weight limit of 18 tonnes (20 tons) The ferry boats are propelled across the river by pulling themselves on the chains; the chains then sink to the bottom to allow shipping movements in the river. An intensive service is provided, with service frequencies ranging from every 10 minutes (3 ferries in service) at peak times, to half-hourly (1 ferry in service) at night. Services operate 24 hours a day, every day (including throughout Christmas and all other holiday periods), with service frequency never falling below half-hourly.
The ferries, along with the nearby Tamar Bridge, are operated by the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry Joint Committee, which is jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall Council.
Tolls are payable in the Torpoint to Devonport (eastbound) direction only. The toll is £1.50 for cars and motorcycle riders are charged 30p, there is no additional charge for a pillion passenger. Frequent users can reduce the fare by half by purchasing top ups online for a machine-readable windscreen-mounted digital payment tag, called Tamar Tag, which is also usable on the bridge. The toll increase of 50% in March 2010 was the first rise for nearly 15 years.
A ferry route between Torpoint and Plymouth Dock (now called Devonport) was created by an Act of Parliament in 1790 and the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe began to run ferries the following year. In 1826 the ferry operations were taken over by the Torpoint Steamboat Company, which built landing piers on both sides of the Tamar. The company also built the steam ferry Jemima which entered service in 1831. The steamer was unable to hold a course in the strong tidal flow of the Hamoaze, so it was soon withdrawn and the older ferryboats returned to service.
The steamboat company approached James Meadows Rendel in 1832 and asked him to design a steam-powered floating bridge for the route. Two ferries were built in 1834 and 1835 and provided a continuous service, operating in alternate months. The tolls varied between 2d for a horse and 5s for a coach with 4 horses, with a double fare charged on Sundays.
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