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Regular river commuter ferry service is still being ignored

05 May 2017

Regular river commuter ferry service is still being ignored Image

By Nadia Dimattina

The Yarra River commuter ferry service centred on the CBD and Docklands is still at the proposal stage with no progress made in four years.

The proposal to make the river an alternative transport method by ferrying commuters daily to and from Docklands and the CBD and beyond is supported by many.

Victorian Transport Association chief executive, Peter Anderson, thinks it’s a brilliant idea and that this type of creative thinking is necessary for Melbourne’s transport network.

“Using the Yarra as a means of moving people is a tremendous way to better access the city and the growing footprint the city now occupies,” he said.

Mr Anderson said the ferry proposal was a great idea because “it takes people away from the streets, getting them to where they want to be in a fairly economical way”.

“It seems simple, putting a ferry that runs on a regular basis down the Yarra and around the Docklands just seems to make sense,” he said.

Additionally, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is a long-term supporter of the water ferry service but understands there are difficulties with the service.

“Speed limits and the proliferation of regulators responsible for the Yarra River as well as the commencement of the free tram zone have had a negative impact on the viability of such a service. It won’t work if it doesn’t stack up economically,” he said

Chamberlin Marine naval architect Kim Chamberlin successfully designed a vessel for the proposed Yarra ferry service, proposing a design capable of navigating under the many low bridges on the Yarra.

In May 2012, Dockland News reported that his design was commissioned by the City of Melbourne’s waterways office, which was the leading charge towards a viable ferry service.

However the innovative Yarra shuttle design was brought to public attention five years ago, with no progress being made since.

In order for the ferry service to succeed, Mr Chamberlin believes it must be provided the same level of subsidy of every other form of public transport.

“It won’t get funded privately while it is up against the trams that are completely free in the CBD. The government needs to get on board and give the same subsidiaries that they are currently giving to the trains and trams within the CBD,” he said.

Mr Chamberlin believes the Yarra ferry service would be an incredibly economical method for improving public transport in Melbourne.

“It is cost effective. We can put four boats on the water with the land infrastructure already in place for the same prices of one tram,” he said.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Joh Maxwell said the suburb long-supported the concept of regular local waterways commuter ferry.

“An option of utilising a ferry service from the CBD and cruising down the Yarra and into Victoria Harbour in Docklands would be sensational.  The utilisation of the waterways is something that all in Docklands would support,” Mrs Maxwell said.

“The Docklands Chamber of Commerce would certainly support a commercially viable proposal for a ferry service to Docklands.”

Recently, property developer Caydon Property Group proposed a ferry between its residential development at Cremorne and the city.

Spokesperson Georgia Willis said: “We haven’t really celebrated or taken advantage of that area of the Yarra, so we can turn that around and actually use it as a carriage way for transport.”

Ms Willis confirmed a Yarra shuttle was still in the proposal stage with work still to be done.

“Its just a proposal at the moment. We have still got a bit of work to do to bring that into a program deliverable. We see over the next six months that we will be in a position to understand the viability of the proposal and the stakeholders that will come on board and benefit from such a service,” Ms Willis said.

However, the main obstacle restricting the project to get some movement is governance.

Mr Chamberlin said: “The whole situation is frustrating, it just makes sense in every way. We have got an innovative, locally designed vessel that could be locally built and it’s just bureaucracy that is holding it up.”

“Until waterways gets the same treatment as trams and trains, it is going to be an uphill battle,” he said.

In the meantime, he said, the planned Docklands ferry terminal at the south basin of Victoria Harbour on the Harbour Esplanade, must be safeguarded.

“With so little unencumbered waterfront left in the Docklands, it is imperative that the space for the ferry terminal remains in public hands out of reach of developers or private entities. Without this, Docklands will forever lose the opportunity to become a waterways transport hub,” Mr Chamberlin said.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Joh Maxwell said: “An option of utilising a ferry service from the CBD and cruising down the Yarra and into Victoria Harbour in Docklands would be sensational.  The utilisation of the waterways is something that all in Docklands would support.”

“We have an amazing water feature that  leads to the jewel in Docklands’ crown – Victoria Harbour – surrounded by restaurants and cafes, walking paths and ultimately into Harbour Town, Melbourne Star, Wonderland Junior and O’Brien Group Arena.”

“Travel to and from Etihad Stadium for the football – no parking issues and being dropped at the front door – what more could a footy fan want?

Visitors to Melbourne would certainly enjoy the travel and views of the city skylines.”

“The Docklands Chamber of Commerce would certainly support a commercially-viable proposal for a ferry service to Docklands.”

Port Phillip Ferries CEO Murray Rance said: “We are still very much in preliminary discussions with anyone and don’t have anything to add at the moment.”

“You need to have a look at a whole heap of circumstances. That particular part of the river is reasonably busy with rowers and tourist vessels so there is a whole lot of scenarios that you need to work through.”

“From the Port Phillip ferries perspective it is not appropriate for us to comment because we don’t know the circumstances. From my perspective as the CEO of the business, it makes sense to use the waterways but, then again, there are a whole bunch of trials and tests that have to be done.”

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