Opinion: further ferry foolishness

A Freshwater class ferry at Sydney's Circular Quay. Photo: Mick Tsilkas/AAP Image.

Freshwater Class ferry advocate Geoffrey R Usher responds to NSW Government plans to keep just one of the iconic ferries on for “weekend work”.

In response to my letter to NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance – and my previous piece in the Sydney Sentinel (‘Foil the ferry fiasco‘, 31 October, 2020) about the proposal to scrap the Freshwater Class ferries – I have received a letter from his office explaining that the new Emerald Class vessels would provide “faster and more frequent journeys between Manly and Circular Quay”, and that the improved frequency “more than makes up for the capacity between Freshwater and Emerald Class ferries”. 

It was an excellent example of missing the point.

The main point of my previous letter and piece in the Sentinel was to highlight the intrinsic value of the renowned Freshwater ferries as a world-famous tourist attraction. 

The response from the Minister’s office fails to make any mention of tourism, but focuses only on business statistics, such as frequency of services, seating capacity, operating costs and projected savings.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Government plans to maintain just one Freshwater ferry “for weekend work … and tourism opportunities”. How is that going to work?  How will tourists from interstate and overseas know just when this single vessel will operate?

“Can you imagine all of Venice’s gondolas being replaced by motor boats, with only one gondola being retained for ‘weekend work’?”

– Geoffrey R Usher

Can you imagine all of Venice’s gondolas being replaced by motor boats, with only one gondola being retained for “weekend work . . . and tourism opportunities”? Or San Francisco’s cable cars being replaced by buses, except for just one cable car retained for “weekend work . . . and tourism opportunities”?

I really have difficulty trying to understand how this state government thinks.  When the Opera House becomes “too expensive to maintain” and the site is sold to developers, will just one of its world-famous sails be preserved because of its iconic status?

Once again this government demonstrates that it knows the price of something but does not understand its value.

A Change.org petition called ‘Save Australia’s Manly Ferries’ has been signed by almost 30,000 people at time of writing. The petition to NSW Roads and Transport Minister Andrew Constance can be found at www.change.org/p/andrew-constance-mp-minister-of-transport-roads-save-australia-s-manly-ferries.