The New South Wales government has been accused of favouring Sydney’s wealthy elite by preserving the Lane Cove ferry route used by students at one of Sydney’s most exclusive schools – all so they don’t have to catch the bus.
The decision to preserve the ferry route has been made despite widespread outcry over the government’s plan to replace the world-famous Manly ferries.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance last year announced plans to scrap the four double-ended ferries that take 1,000 passengers at a time between Circular Quay and Manly on a half-hour scenic trip across the Harbour.
Taking a Manly ferry from Circular Quay is not only one of Sydney’s premier tourist attractions, but has been a right of passage for kids from Sydney’s sprawling western suburbs seeking access to the beach for generations.
The boats – known as Freshwater ferries – also generate millions in revenue for the Northern Beaches economy.
The New South Wales government has been accused of a ‘shocking double standard’ as it plans to cut the iconic Manly ferry service (pictured)
The boats – known as Freshwater ferries – also generate millions in revenue for the Northern Beaches economy
However, the Liberal-National state government now says they are too expensive to run and bad for the environment and wants to replace them with faster 400-seater commuter ferries made in China.
After the decision provoked outrage, Mr Constance agreed to keep two of ferries running at weekends and public holidays only – but campaigners say that’s not good enough.
At the same time, the government has reversed its decision to scrap the Lane Cove ferry on the Parramatta River after wealthy private school parents kicked up a fuss.
Two-thirds of passengers on the route are students at $34,000-a-year Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview who faced a bus ride to school when Captain Cook Cruises said in December the service was being scrapped.
Wealthy parents and local Liberal member Anthony Roberts complained until NSW Transport said the service would be kept following ‘community and stakeholder feedback’.
Labor’s Shadow transport minister Chris Minns, who wants the Freshwater ferries continued, slammed the government over the apparent inconsistency.
‘I think its a shocking double standard,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
The government has reversed its decision to scrap the Lane Cove ferry (pictured) on the Parramatta River
Two-thirds of passengers on the Lane Cove route are students at $34,000-a-year Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview (pictured)
‘The government’s decision to kill off half the services on the Freshwater ferries will have a big impact on the Northern Beaches tourism economy and keeping Lane Cove will have next to no flow-on effects.
‘I feel like they are protecting the services that certain communities need but refusing to do the heavy lifting for the Northern Beaches that have gone through the toughest lockdown and most difficult economic circumstances of anyone in Sydney.’
Mr Minns said lobbying from Mr Roberts and complaints from parents pressured the government to keep the Lane Cove service.
‘Fair enough, I’m not knocking the parents – they’ve got every right to fight for services to their community – but when you’re looking at the dumping of a ferry service that carries thousands and thousands of people, you would think that the same standard would apply.’
Mr Minns said lobbying from Mr Roberts and complaints from parents pressured the government to keep the Lane Cove service
Mr Minns said the Freshwater ferries competed with New York’s Staten Island ferry and Hong Kong’s Star Ferry as the most iconic public transport tourism attractions in the world.
‘To just sort of recklessly one day in the bureaucratic flick of the pen destroy what is an iconic service, I think it’s so short-sighted and really indicative of a government that’s not thinking about where they’re going to take the state in the next ten years.
‘I would be focussing on keeping these community services alive to make sure the economy stays strong, particularly in this environment,’ he added.
Candy Bingham, deputy mayor of Northern Beaches Council, has started a petition to keep all four Freshwater ferries going every day.
The government wants to replace the iconic ferries with faster 400-seater commuter ferries (pictured) made in China
‘The main issue is that tourists come to Sydney seven days a week, they don’t just come on the weekend. And two ferries on the weekend isn’t going to do the job anyway,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Tourism to the Northern Beaches is worth $500million a year and accounts for 12 per cent of jobs in the area.
Ms Bingham said in 2019 4.4million passengers took the ferries and described them as the ‘lifeblood of our area’.
She said large ferries have been running from Circular Quay to Manly since the 1850s and are ‘part of our heritage’.
‘People don’t want to get on little fast ferries, they want that experience. If you Google ”things to do in Sydney” riding on the Manly ferry is one of the first things that comes up. It’s just so frustrating,’ she said.
The deputy mayor said converting the ferries to use electric engines or run on biofuels, or only running them from 10am to 10pm instead of 5.30am to midnight should be considered to make them cheaper and cleaner.
‘We have had it confirmed that these will run on biofuels, but the replacement – the piddly littler Emerald class from China – are still running on diesel,’ she said.
Ms Bingham also said similar ferries in Norway had been revamped with electric engines ‘but none of these things are being looked at’.
‘It’s really frustrating, it seems to be a decision made by the minister and it’s all about the privatisation of our ferries generally,’ she said.
Candy Bingham (left), deputy mayor of Northern Beaches Council, has started a petition to keep all four Manly ferries going every day. Right: Shadow transport Chris Minns, who wants the Manly ferries continued, slammed the government over the apparent inconsistency
The government has said the MV Freshwater will join the MV Collaroy in transporting passengers between Circular Quay and Manly on weekends from mid-year, when sister vessels MV Narrabeen and MV Queenscliff are retired.
New Emerald-class ferries will replace the Freshwater-class ferries on weekdays, which the NSW government says will be faster and more energy-efficient.
A spokesman for Minister Constance told Daily Mail Australia: ‘Sydneysiders and tourists will be able to enjoy trips on the famous Freshwater ferries with the NSW Government confirming two of the four vessels will be retained.
‘This decision is about balancing the needs of weekday commuters, tourism and NSW taxpayers, while also acknowledging the community’s strong attachment to the Freshwater class ferries.
‘Weekday commuters want faster and more frequent services which is exactly why we will be providing them with the new Emerald class vessels.’