Shields Ferry

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Shields Ferry
ferry/water interchange
Nexus Ferry logo.jpeg
Spirit of the Tyne.jpg
The MV Spirit of the Tyne crossing the River Tyne, in 2007
WaterwayRiver Tyne
Transit type
OwnerNorth East Joint Transport Committee
Began operation1377; 644 years ago (1377)
System lengthCrossing time approx 7 mins
No. of lines1
No. of vessels
  • 2
  • Pride of the Tyne
  • Spirit of the Tyne
No. of terminals

The Shields Ferry operates across the River Tyne, England, between North Shields and South Shields. The service is operated by Nexus, the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive (PTE). It was known as the Market Place Ferry until takeover by the PTE in 1972.


There have been ferries across the Tyne since the 14th century, and this is the only service that remains.

The ferry service makes just under 25,000 journeys a year and carries nearly 400,000 passengers a year. Two vessels currently operate the service, Pride of the Tyne, built in 1993 and Spirit of the Tyne, built in 2007. Usually, only one ferry is in operation at a time, although both are used during peak periods. The service typically operates every 30 minutes with a 7 minute crossing time. 

Passengers on the north bank can transfer to the 333 bus service at North Shields ferry landing to be taken directly to the town centre and North Shields metro station. The alternative to this is a short 5- to 10-minute walk via the steep hill of Borough Road.

In 2008 Nexus appointed Carol Timlin as the service's first female general manager.[1]


Freda Cunningham[edit]

Shields Ferry Freda Cunningham in 1993

The Freda Cunningham was the first diesel ferry to be commissioned and was in use when the ferry service was called the "Market Place Ferry". This vessel had a reputation for unreliability and was frequently out of service. The ferry's name came from the wife of North East Labour Party leader Andy Cunningham, who was later jailed for corruption. She was also the mother of politician and cabinet minister, Jack Cunningham. She was commissioned in 1972 to replace the steamship Northumbrian[2] and sold in 1993 when the Pride of The Tyne came into service.

In 2006 the vessel, now named Mystic Waters, began operating between west Cork and Sherkin Island.[3]


Shields ferry Shieldsman on the Tyne in 1993

The Shieldsman was built by Hancock Shipbuilders of Pembroke Dock and entered service in 1976.[4] The ferry is double-ended and could operate either way, however she typically worked one way and turned around during the crossing. She could carry 350 passengers in public service, or a reduced capacity of 250 on private hire. The Shieldsman was retired early in 2007 to be replaced by the new Spirit of the Tyne, and is now a houseboat on the River Adur in West Sussex.

Pride of the Tyne[edit]

Pride of the Tyne was built by Swan Hunter in nearby Wallsend and entered service in 1993.[2] It was a modified version of the Shieldsman and cost £1.5 million. The vessel also has a bar, 'The Admirals Locker', that is available on private hire trips. The vessel was the first river ferry to incorporate all of the new safety features introduced after the Marchioness disaster in 1989.

Pride of the Tyne is powered by two Gardner 6LXDT engines with twin Perkins generators.[citation needed]

Spirit of the Tyne[edit]

A new ferry, Spirit of the Tyne entered service in 2007, replacing Shieldsman.[2] This ferry is an 'off-the-shelf' product and differs greatly from the Shieldsman and Pride of the Tyne. It was built in Harlingen, Netherlands and fitted out in Portsmouth.[5] The design was adapted from the Gosport ferries; Spirit of Gosport, Spirit of Portsmouth and the Vine Trust's medical ferry Forth Hope.[4]


South Shields Ferry Landing, in 2009

North Shields Ferry Landing[edit]

North Shields Ferry Landing was opened in July 2004 providing better accessibility and passenger waiting facilities than its predecessor which was built in a similar style to Tyne and Wear Metro Stations.

South Shields Ferry Landing[edit]

The service uses two landing stages, South Shields Ferry Landing was opened in July 1999 to replace a century-old landing. The landing provides three berths as well as an indoor waiting room and offices.


The service is used by many commuters mainly from North Tyneside and South Tyneside. The service provides a viable alternative to travelling via Newcastle city centre on the Tyne and Wear Metro or the Tyne Tunnel. The Shields Ferry can be used by cyclists and is part of the National Cycle Route 1. All of the vessels in service with Nexus can carry wheelchairs.


Shields Ferry as part of the Tyne and Wear transport network

Because the ferry is operated by Nexus, who also operate the Tyne and Wear Metro, ticketing is integrated with the Metro ticketing system. Many Metro tickets are valid on the Ferry. New style Transfare tickets can be purchased allowing one-way travel on Shields Ferry and either a bus or Metro. Tickets are purchased when boarding the ferry.


  1. ^ "Ferry gets first woman boss in 700 years". Shields Gazette. Johnston Press. 12 August 2008. Retrieved 16 August 2008. There has been a ferry service between North Shields and South Shields since 1377, but never has a woman been at the helm. Mrs Timlin, from Gosforth, Newcastle, said: "It's nice to think that I'm the first ever woman to manage the Shields Ferry. It's an historic moment for a service that dates back hundreds of years.
  2. ^ a b c "The Shieldsman ferry leaves the Tyne after 30 years service". News Guardian. Johnston Press. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Shields 'forgotten' Freda ferry found in Ireland". BBC News. BBC. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Ferry marks 30 years of service". BBC News. BBC. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Spirit of the Tyne celebrates ten years of service". Nexus. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2018.

Next vehicle crossing upstream River Tyne Next vehicle crossing downstream
Tyne Tunnel
Shields Ferry None
North Sea
Next pedestrian crossing upstream River Tyne Next pedestrian crossing downstream
Tyne Pedestrian & Cycle Tunnel Shields Ferry None
North Sea