A local councillor and hotelier says local businesses should soon feel the benefits of the proposed ticketing changes for the Windermere Ferry, describing it as "a victory for common sense".
Earlier this month, Cumbria County Council "sincerely apologised" for not following the "expected standards of consultation" with local people surrounding changes to how tickets are issued for users of the ferry.
Following widespread criticism of changes to how tickets could be bought, a review of the controversial ticket machines went before the council on December 21st.
The onshore ticket devices have proved unpopular with drivers due to long delays, with campaigners repeatedly calling for users to be able to pay on board again, with card or cash.
Local residents and businesses in villages like Hawkshead say the local economy has "definitely felt" the effects of the delays - with in some cases, visitors choosing to spend their money elsewhere rather than sit in long queues.
In January, the council says further engagement will be held with local people to gather views on how to improve the service. A customer satisfaction survey will be held six months later, with proposals that any new arrangements for a return to the on board system should be in place before the start of the busy holiday periods in 2018.
Long-time campaigner and councillor Ben Berry (pictured) said the importance of the service should not be underestimated.
He said: "It's a vital link for our community. It's actually classed as a road. It's a highway that connects several local communities together, especially Hawkshead and Windermere.
"Not only is it vital for residents and businesses, but it's a vital tourist attraction as well."
You can hear Cllr Berry's comments in full by clicking the player below:
Key points in the report are as follows:
- The options for a better ticket sales system continue to be investigated, with the ambition that the council's cabinet agrees to an onboard payment system.
- It is anticipated that most vehicle customers will either pre-purchase their ticket or use either card or smart phones to pay the ferry operative from their car.
- It is proposed that cyclists will also either pay the ferry operative if using a card or smart phone or use the deck mounted machine for cash transactions
- To encourage the pre-purchase of tickets, a website is being developed as well as a smart phone app so that tickets can be purchased at any time, potentially whilst customers are waiting for the ferry
Cllr Janet Willis, Cabinet member with responsibility for Customer Services, said: "Following the last update in July, today I would like to provide Cabinet with the final update on the Cabinet led review on Windermere Ferry and announce the publication of the report.
"It was June when Council requested that Cabinet undertake this review. This followed a number of changes to operations, which with hindsight, although well intentioned did not follow the high standards of consultation and implementation we like to hold ourselves to.
"For that, let me stand here today and sincerely apologise.
"This ferry service is not just for tourists, but an integral part of the daily commute for many locals, and we did not give them the consideration they were due.
"The report which will be published later today on the Windermere Ferry page [which you can now read here], is thorough and details step by step the decisions taken and where our processes went wrong.
"Plus actions we took quickly to improve the situation and the next steps ahead. I wont pre-empt everyone's enjoyment of the report by revealing too many of its findings - but suffice to say that Storm Abigail and Desmond have a lot to answer for, in this regard diverting out hard working team of officers from implementation of the new Windermere Ferry payment system, to flood recovery work. This is where it started to go wrong.
"I hope people will agree with me that we have done a lot since then to make things 'right'. We've listened, improved signage, simplified the ticketing system and provided extra capacity via additional ticket machines and staff to assist.
"Id like to take this opportunity to thank our officers who have worked hard to get us to this position today, from the ferry operatives on the ground to the 'secret ferry shoppers' and especially Mike Smith who has done a huge amount of work, not least in writing the report.
"The request to Full Council in June was 'to identify a payment solution which is swift, secure and available on board whilst also safeguarding the income which the ferry generates'. I hope people will agree we've achieved this. But let's keep on talking and ensure that this community asset keeps its community at the heart of all it does."