Foil the ferry fiasco

The Sydney ferry 'Collaroy' doing the Manly ferry run. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC BY-SA 3.0:

Geoffrey R Usher reflects on the value of retaining our famous Freshwater Class ferries, which the NSW Government wants to consign to the scrapheap.

Over the years, my wife and I have hosted a number of colleagues and friends visiting Sydney from overseas.

Depending on their plans and the time available, we have taken them – or directed them – to various tourist attractions in and around Sydney. They have enjoyed Bondi Beach, the Opera House, the Botanic Garden, Hyde Park, the Mint and the Barracks, the Blue Mountains, and so on.

The thing that almost all of them have particularly enjoyed is a ferry trip to Manly: not simply to be on the Harbour, but to ride on a Manly ferry. Like the Bridge and the Opera House, the Manly ferry is a world-famous attraction.

Some of them have taken other ferry trips: up the river to Parramatta, or to Watsons Bay to see The Gap. They have enjoyed the sight-seeing, but they have rarely waxed enthusiastic about the ferries on which they have done those trips.

Footage of the Circular Quay to Manly ferry roundtrip. Video: Pit Spielmann/YouTube.

The reported proposal to scrap the renowned Freshwater ferries ignores the huge value they provide to our city – a value which extends far beyond the bean-counting approach to the cost of maintaining them.

After the ‘Ferry McFerryface’ fiasco, I would have expected our state government and the people responsible to have thought much more carefully about the intrinsic value of such an important asset as the Manly ferries. Are they going to recommend scrapping the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge because of the costs of maintaining them?

The government needs not only to provide infrastructure, but also to maintain it. It is money that needs to be spent for the general good.

From a logistical point of view, the proposal to replace a ferry which can carry a thousand passengers with a ferry which can carry only four hundred passengers is just silly. I’m pretty certain there is no proposal to double the number of ferry trips between Circular Quay and Manly each day. To do so, of course, would double the costs of employing all the extra crew members required, on top of the costs of running twice the number of services. More beans to be counted!

Tourist attractions around the world are maintained because of their intrinsic value. If other governments followed the example of this short-sighted proposal by the NSW Government, it would not be long before the world lost such icons as San Francisco’s cable cars, Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal . . .

The government needs to ensure that our famous Freshwater ferries continue in service for many years to come.

A petition called ‘Save Australia’s Manly Ferries’ has been signed by over 6000 people at time of writing. The petition to NSW Roads and Transport Minister Andrew Constance can be found at

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