Ferry tales rarely come true
The fact that more than 200 ferries never make it to Parramatta each month was one of the best-kept secrets of the transport authorities and the previous state Labor government.
The government is currently replacing over 200 services a month between Parramatta wharf and Rydalmere (the next wharf east on the Parramatta River) because low tides are preventing the RiverCats from snaking their way past the mangroves, and through the silt, for the final 3.2 kilometres of the journey.
When Bret Walker delivered his report into Sydney’s ferries in 2007 he said, in effect, that the historic Parramatta service was not worth the bother. The former government ultimately disagreed, and the then premier Nathan Rees put on extra express ferry services between Parramatta and Circular Quay.
But in the past two years, fewer actually make it to Parramatta. Sydney Ferries started to replace the occasional ferry with buses between Rydalmere and Parramatta in November 2009. In the 2009-10 financial year, 126 services a month were replaced. In the 2010-11 financial year, 201 a month were replaced.
The whole rationale for taking more than 80 services a week away from Neutral Bay and Mosman was to support the increased demand further up the Parramatta River. The rescheduling that the relevant minister of the day made to shore up support in Labor seats has now been exposed as a giant ferry tale.
Meanwhile, in their recent Budget, the NSW Liberal Government is to invest $24 million to improve infrastructure and maritime safety in NSW. This includes a $13.4 million investment in upgrading commuter wharves in Sydney Harbour.
“NSW Maritime owns and maintains a network of more than 45 commuter wharves across the harbour and it is important this transport infrastructure meets appropriate standards of public safety and amenity,” NSW Ports Minister Duncan Gay said.
Funding includes $3.5 million to upgrade charter vessel wharves and redeveloping the Rozelle Bay Maritime precinct; and $2.5 million for new NSW Maritime patrol boats and engines for Boating Safety Officers statewide to carry out on-water safety compliance and education.
In addition is $1.47 million to support the work of the volunteer rescue group, Marine Rescue NSW; and there’s also $1 million for new navigational markers, signage and public moorings that assist the estimated 1.5 million people who go boating each year in NSW.
Instead of blaming ‘low tides’ – aren’t water levels supposed to be rising? – for the inability of ferries to reach Parramatta, perhaps the newly elected government can fund dredging the build-up of silt that has accumulated from run-off into the river. Surely no more than the extra cost of running all those extra buses to bypass low tides?
That way they can bring back services that meet the needs of the public and not the re-election ferry tales of the now very ex-Labor government.