Closing the Swing Bridge? ‘I might as well not even mention’ St George’s to tourists
Charter boat Operator critical of closing East End access
By Jonathan Bell
Plans to close the Swing Bridge for one year got a poor reception from captain Nathan Worswick, who said the cost-cutting measure stood to cut out a lot of his charter boat business.
“I was shocked when I read about it in the newspaper,” Mr Worswick told The Royal Gazette. “And the slogan for Bermuda is ‘So Much More'? This is ‘One Thing Less'.”
The operator of the Ana Luna, who believes he's the biggest user of the Swing Bridge over Ferry Reach, has just put his vessel back in the water and is about to start private cruises.
“I was doing regular, scheduled cruises from Grotto Bay to St George's every day of the week, all summer,” he said. “If they close the Swing Bridge, I can't do it. I might as well not even mention St George's if I can't take people there.”
Public Works Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin announced the closure for the coming fiscal year in her Budget brief on Monday.
According to Government, the move will save $163,000 — although Mr Worswick questioned how that was possible.
“I think the bridge's biggest expense is the bridge keeper himself. Unless he's made redundant, they will give him a job elsewhere, so there's no savings,” he said.
According to a spokeswoman for Public Works, the bridge's beams and cross bracing will get a tune-up as they have been affected by seawater.
“The opening mechanism will also be checked,” she said. “The bridge will be opened and closed approximately once every two weeks, just to make sure that the opening mechanism is kept operational.”
But for Mr Worswick, who said he runs around 15 visitors a day to the Old Town over the 120 days of the tourist season, the best time to close the bridge would have been the last few months: the off season, when it is seldom used.
“As it is, that's all those customers who aren't going to go there,” he said. “I love St George's and love sailing there.
“They're also trying to encourage visiting yachts to come here and stay longer. They're not going to like that. It's an inconvenience to them too and making angry visitors.”
For the Ana Luna, an ideal trip to the East End would run from Grotto Bay and under the Swing Bridge to drop visitors at the World Heritage Centre in St George's, leaving them with bus passes to head back.
Mr Worswick said it's also a fine option when strong winds from the west make the waters too rough for snorkel trips to beauty spots like Gibbet Island.
With Longbird Bridge many years out of operation, and his charter vessel far too high to pass beneath, the Swing Bridge is his only option.
“I think they should reconsider,” he said. “They can change that decision without any problem. In a lot of ways, it's democracy in action. They should listen to what people have to say and then form their opinion.”
For East End residents, waiting for the Swing Bridge can be tiresome — and both area MP Kenny Bascome and St George's mayor Garth Rothwell have expressed concern that the bridge, hit by lightning in 2012 and left stuck open on a couple of occasions since, might break down during an emergency.
“My passengers love it,” Mr Worswick countered. “I've taken a thousand people through there a season. They all take pictures of the bridge. Government should paint it pink if they want to do something cool.”
He also branded the $163,000 saving as “absolutely nothing”.
The Royal Gazette asked the new Tourism Authority if it would consider recommending Government make cuts elsewhere — and requested clarification from Public Works as to whether the budget savings would come from taking the bridge keeper off the job completely.
Neither organisation had responded by press time last night.
However, two of Mr Worswick's fellow charter pilots agreed that his business, Ana Luna Adventures, stands to lose the most.
“It doesn't affect me — all our boats can easily clear the existing bridge,” said one East End representative, who asked not to be named. “I don't see the bridge being used that much as it is.
“He probably uses it as much as anybody does. For him, I guess that's the most inconvenience.”
Escape Yacht operator Lawrence Trimingham said he used the Swing Bridge “occasionally, but not too often” in his business.
“If it could be done over the winter, that would be good,” Mr Trimingham added. “If it needs to be fixed, let's just get it done.”