It’s undoubtedly one of the most picturesque ways to get to work in the world.
However Sydney’s iconic harbour ferry fleet is about to throw its unwanted label of a slow, boutique public transport service for rich waterside residents overboard in favour of becoming an expanded and revamped way of getting around gridlock on the roads.
The New South Wales government has finally asked boat builders for their designs to add at least six new vessels to its popular existing Sydney Harbour fleet as demand from commuters for travel across unencumbered waters steadily grows.
The government has appointed Sydney-based naval architects One2three to prepare concept designs for the six new ferries before a major construction tender goes out later in 2014.
Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian said the new ferries will be designed to carry about 400 passengers and will operate in the Inner Harbour, serving all routes between Rydalmere in the west and Watsons Bay in the east
The largest ferries now operating have a capacity of up to 1,150 passengers, while the smallest can take up to 250 passengers.
“We have asked the architects to think outside the box when designing these new ferries and consider how they can include modern customer friendly elements while retaining the much loved iconic heritage features of Sydney’s ferries,” Ms Berejiklian said.
A big reason for the government’s plan to procure six new ferries is to keep up with the increasing demand for more services.
According to Ms Berejiklian, the latest performance results show that there have been more commuters and tourists jumping on board services since ferry operations were franchised in 2012.
“Even with thousands of extra customers traveling on Sydney Ferries services, results over summer show that the new operator, Harbour City Ferries, is maintaining or improving its performance,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The varying age of the existing vessels, with most between 20 and 30 years old, is also a significant reason for the introduction of new ferries.
The government believes that planning for new vessels will put it in a position to provide additional services in the future as well as retire existing vessels as needed.
With a 2016 deadline for the government’s major expansion of the ferry system, the number of passenger boats plying the city’s waters will rise from 28 to 34 as part of a 20-year plan dubbed Sydney’s Ferry Future that aims to modernise and greatly increase efficiency and capacity utilisation of the service.
A big barrier for passengers travelling to work or across the city by boat has traditionally been the limited number of services that traverse high numbers of stops not always integrated with buses.
That now looks set to change as the government seeks to restore an integrated and interlinked public transport network where transport providers work together rather than competing against each other.
In moves that haven’t pleased everyone, ferry stops servicing very small numbers have been let go in favour of new stops and wharves in areas where dense residential development has replaced old industrial sites.
Sydney’s new look fleet, now run by a private operator, will have access to 38 wharves ranging from Circular Quay to Manly, Darling Harbour and the Parramatta River.
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