After a busy day on Sunday I did not see or hear any of the national news until late in the evening. I had only switched on the TV in anticipation of Match of the Day and was shocked to see pictures of a Duck Tours amphibious vehicle on fire! The vessel was clearly on the Thames in London and the hairs went up on the back of my neck as I have taken a trip with London Duck Tours on several occasions.
It appeared that the vehicle had burst into flames after entering the water leading to 28 passengers and 2 crew members having to abandon ship by jumping into the water. Thankfully the vessel was in shallow waters close to the river bank at the time and everyone made it safely to dry land but things could have been very different. I must have had my ears closed after the last few months as I then discovered that this was the second unfortunate episode on the Thames for London Duck Tours and that two identical vehicles had sunk in Liverpool leading to the operator’s licence being removed.
The amphibious vehicles concerned date back to the Second World War and were used in the D Day Landings. They have been refurbished but there are obviously some serious issues here and I suspect that this may now be a defunct service. As I write this piece, London Duck Tours have suspended the he operation but with all the publicity they may not have any takers even if they can get things under way again.
This is all a great shame as I can say from personal experience that these tours were brilliant! It was a really novel way of seeing the sights of the capital and I enjoyed all of my trips immensely. The tours began on the road with a drive around some of the major sights accompanied by plenty of great patter from the humorous guides. There were lots of jokes along the way partnered by historical information and guests were encouraged to wave at passers-by. After the road trip the vehicles were driven down a ramp adjacent to the MI6 building on the South Bank and completed the journey by water, sailing up the Thames back to the start point close to the London Eye. These tours were one of the best things in London for me and I clearly wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Every departure seemed to be full and you often had to book well in advance to get a seat.
If Duck Tours are finished, and I suspect that they are, then I hope that someone comes up with something similar in the future. The trips were much more fun than the usual bus tour and felt like a real adventure. The Thames is fundamental to the character of London and it was so perfect to incorporate some time on the water into a tour. Now, with the amphibious vehicles firmly behind garage doors, the capital is crying out for an alternative.
Article by Sally Stacey