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Woolwich ferryman Colin experiences 'toughest' challenge

Published: 24 Aug 2012

More than 6000 miles from the River Thames, the Buringanga is one of the most congested waterways in the world. Serco's Colin Window, bridge officer on the Woolwich Free Ferry was tested to the limit when he joined Mr Loteef, a 76 year old skipper who ferries passengers and goods along the river in Dhaka, Bangladesh when he took part in the BBC's 'Toughest Place to be a.' series.

Colin, took the opportunity to star in the BBC Two documentary series earlier this year spending just over a week in the Indian subcontinent living and working alongside Mr Loteef who had spent part of his life working on the river. And on Sunday 26 August at 21.00 everyone will be able to see the challenges he faced as he stepped from the bridge of John Burns Woolwich Free Ferry to the Sampan, a small wooden boat steered with one oar.

A popular member of the Woolwich Ferry team, Colin was chosen by the programme to take on the challenge in one of the most demanding environments on earth. Colin's visit to Bangladesh introduced him to living and working conditions he had never experienced before. Colin joined Mr Loteef and helped operate the ferry service, on his regular route weaving through a quarter of a mile of dense river traffic before unloading passengers and goods during the rush hour, when thousands of commuters cross the river.

Living and working alongside Mr Loteef, Colin found out what it is like for some of the poorest people on Earth as they carry out their everyday lives. Colin stayed overnight in one of the city's many slums, among people who often live on less than the equivalent of £1.00 a day; he met street children and took his life into his hands when he ventured out among the giant ferries and barges that traverse the river.

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Colin had a journey of personal discovery while he was living alongside Mr Loteef. He discovered that millions of Bangladeshis have been forced off their farms by the harsh and changing climate and into the crowded city of Dhaka. Colin was so inspired by Mr Loteef and the local community he has become involved by lending his support to their quest to return to their farming way of life by buying a dairy cow for the local community with his own money. Serco matched his generous gift by buying a second dairy cow.

As Mr Loteef introduced Colin to his new day job, the TV crew followed them as, in temperatures up to 40 degrees, they collected passengers and goods and dropped them off to carry out their daily lives.

In Colin's everyday role at the Woolwich Free Ferry, which travels 1 mile from bank to bank in each journey, he helps carry around 41,000 passengers and 21,000 cars aboard each week. By comparison to the Sampan, which he worked aboard with Mr Loteef, the Woolwich Free Ferry is 185ft long, 62 feet wide and weighs in excess of 900 tonnes. The Woolwich Free Ferry is operated by Serco on behalf of Transport for London.


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