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Only ferry between Zeebrugge and UK will stop at end of year
The P&O passenger ferry that runs from Zeebrugge on the Flemish coast to Hull in the UK will set sail for the last time at the end of this year. Citing the coronavirus crisis, P&O has decided to end the service across the North Sea.
P&O has been running the overnight route between Hull and Zeebrugge since 1974. The service saw one ferry going in each direction every night and brought hundreds of thousands of tourists a year to Bruges and First World War sites in the Westhoek.
The company is planning to take both the ferries out of service. Information from the company was scant, but a leaked document to staff last week indicated that the ongoing pandemic and Brexit, as well as the age of the ferries themselves, forced the decision.
The Hull to Zeebrugge crossing had been a “challenging route for a number of years,” Darren Procter of the British Rail Maritime and Transport union told the BBC. “The Pride of York is an ageing vessel and because of the future financial costs, P&O made the decision to cut their losses.”
The cancellation of the ferries cuts off the only route from the UK directly to Belgium’s coast. As such, it is a blow to tourism in West Flanders, with both Ypres and Bruges extremely concerned about the consequences.
“This will have a major impact on us,” said Bruges city councillor Philip Pierins (SP.A). “Before the corona crisis, hundreds of passengers arrived every morning, just for a day-trip. And they spent money here, of course.”
Pierins told VRT that the city had no idea ahead of time that P&O was cancelling the route before it was announced. “Bruges and England have always had a special bond; it dates back to the middle ages. I don’t think that the English will simply decide to stop coming to Belgium because the P&O doesn’t sail out of Hull anymore. I’m convinced they will find another way to come here.”
Other travel options between England and Flanders, outside of air travel, requires using the Channel Tunnel to get to Calais, Lille or Brussels and making your way from there.
Photo courtesy Zeebrugge-Hull.com