RiverBus rescue package sinks: Liquidation is blamed on administrators' slowness in completing deal

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THE RiverBus boat service that has operated along the 10 miles of the Thames between Chelsea and Greenwich since 1989 went into liquidation unexpectedly last night, after the latest attempt to put together a rescue package for the company collapsed. The decision has angered business people in Docklands who rely on it to commute to work.

The RiverBus Partnership was set up in 1989 with help from Olympia & York, the Canadian developer of the Canary Wharf office complex. RiverBus's 10 boats regularly carried up to 8,000 passengers a day.

After O&Y collapsed in 1992 the developer's administrators, Ernst & Young, put together a succession of rescue packages for RiverBus with backing from businesses in Docklands. The collapse of the latest of these packages forced the company into liquidation.

Peter Corfield of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, which is based in Canary Wharf, blamed Ernst & Young for the failure of the deal.

He said a pounds 1.75m deal signed last month, which should have kept the service afloat for another year, came unstuck because the administrators took too long in completing it, and the finance fell away. A big fall in tourist numbers due to bad weather also hit the company. 'It seems to me the only thing the administrators have achieved in the last 12 months is to close down the RiverBus service. A third of our staff, 130 people, used it to get to work every day.'

Alan Bloom, one of the administrators, said: 'The administrators have provided over pounds 800,000 to maintain the RiverBus service since their appointment in May 1992 and we are prepared to continue to provide pounds 30,000 per month for the rest of the year if the service continues to run.

'However, with the recent completion of the Limehouse Link, we have seen an enormous improvement in transport communication with Canary Wharf, reducing the importance of the river-based service.'

The vital Jubilee Line underground extension, which will connect Docklands with central London, has yet to receive clearance from the Government and O&Y's banks.

(Photograph omitted)