Only one of four Freshwater-class ferries will be retained for weekend services after February 2021.
Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance today announced a single Freshwater-class vessel, the Collaroy which is the youngest of the fleet, will be maintained in service until 2023 for weekends and holidays while Emerald-class vessels will replace regular commuter services to Circular Quay.
“We are pressing ahead with upgrades to our ferry fleet to ensure the needs of our customers are met into the future. However, like any good government should, we are willing to listen to the community and adapt our plans to get better outcomes for all.
“Our decision means customers can continue to get on board and ride a Freshwater over the next few years which is great news for the many people who hold them so dear.
“The Freshwater-class hold a lot of fond memories for many but it’s important we keep pace with demand by continuing to modernise our fleet in line with many other leading ferry networks around the world.
“Operating Emerald-class vessels will allow us to add more weekly services for customers on the F1 Manly route which is much needed considering it’s the busiest in the country.
“The new ferries also offer better value for money and will enable savings of around $6m a year. They will also be fully accessible and more energy efficient,” said Mr Constance.
Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham attended the Minister’s press conference this morning, which was held at Circular Quay.
“That’ll be it, one ferry. They are working out what they are doing with the other three. One idea with the Freshwater is to make it a dive site. They might put the others out for expression of interest to see if any tourist companies are interested in running them,” she said.
“The whole thing is ridiculous. I’m likening it to demolishing the Opera House and just keeping one of the sails for the tourists to look at.
“What’s really got me concerned is they keep talking about commuters all the time. They are looking at it as a transport issue rather than a tourism issue. It really should be the tourism people looking at this, not Transport for NSW.
“This is just not going to work. I’ve spoken with some of the Ferry Masters. You can’t just put them in the dock for the week and bring them out on the weekends. There’ll be all sorts of issues. They have to be running constantly to be effective and this is not going to be effective. Clearly they just want to phase them out,” said Cr Bingham.
Cr Bingham said that she was mounting a campaign to save the Freshwater ferries and asked people to sign her NSW Parliament petition which she claims already has 880 signatures.
A spokesperson for Member for Manly James Griffin said that patronage on the Freshwater-class vessels had declined around 15 percent from 2017 – 2019 with the 8.00am service from Manly carrying 280 passengers on average (pre-COVID).
The spokesperson also said the heavy-weather capability of the Emerald-class vessels matches the Freshwater-class vessels because although capable of operating in 4.5m swells, it is rare for services to remain in operation in those conditions.
According to the spokesperson, as a result of introducing the Emerald-class Monday through Friday, 328 faster services will be added to the F1 Manly timetable each week, an increase of around 67 percent.
Image: Simone Joyce