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Editions

River shuttle paves the way

27 Mar 2012

Everyone knows and acknowledges that Docklands’ unique waterfront position is the long-term key to a sustainable supply of visitors.

But the task of actually implementing a permanent river shuttle that would ferry passengers from Federation Square to Waterfront City has, so far, proved to be
too hard.

However, the concept took a step forward in early March when a free river shuttle was successfully implemented to support Docklands’ involvement in the opening weekend of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF).

The shuttle was organised by Docklander Bill Reid, who volunteered to help after it became obvious that local businesses were going to miss out on being involved in the weekend.

Mr Reid said it was imperative that Docklands businesses did not miss out in the first year that the festival focussed on Melbourne’s waterways.

“We were facing a situation where Docklands would have ‘missed the boat’ in future years too if nothing was done,” Mr Reid said.

Unfortunately the first day of the opening weekend (Saturday, March 3) was virtually washed out with rain, but the showers cleared sufficiently on the Sunday to demonstrate the strength of the concept with about 8500 people talking advantage of the service.

In his report to stakeholders on the experience, Mr Reid said the shuttle was fundamental to the success of future involvement in the food and wine festival.

“On the whole the feedback for the free river shuttle was excellent,” Mr Reid said. “Many felt it was an essential service for the weekend event. Some were surprised to learn it was not a regular service.”

“Everyone felt that the river needs a regular shuttle service,” he said.

Mr Reid said the experience proved that Docklands needed a central body to take responsibility for organising local events such as the MFW riverside opening weekend.

Mr Reid said that planning for next year should start almost immediately and Docklands had learned many lessons from the experience.

He said local businesses were initially reluctant to commit to the MFWF concept because “in their minds, it showed no obvious business benefit and no precedent to demonstrate this.”

“We were underfunded and initially under-supported by the local businesses,” he said.

In his report, he said impediments holding Docklands back in the public event area included inadequate maps, signage, limited street parking and confusing precinct names.

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