NEW commuter ferry services could operate between Melbourne and Geelong and parts of Port Phillip Bay under ambitious expansion plans by high profile businessman Paul Little.
A $10 million purpose-built vessel will be added to Mr Little’s Port Phillip Ferries fleet next month, and the service has won approval for higher speeds at the mouth of the Yarra River
PORT PHILLIP FERRIES HALTS WYNDHAM HARBOUR TRIAL PORTARLINGTON FERRY SERVICE CONFIRMED FOR THREE YEARS YARRA RIVER FERRY PLAN FROM CHAPEL ST TO DOCKLANDS
The operator currently runs trips between Docklands and Portarlington on the Bellarine Peninsula, and Portarlington and Geelong after a South Werribee to CBD trial failed.
Under serious consideration is a new terminal at Station Pier for expanded bay services, and the introduction of new routes on the Yarra, with the focus on a quick peak commuter service between Chapel St and Flinders St Station.
Outlining their vision to the Herald Sun, Mr Little and Port Phillip Ferries CEO Murray Rance said that extensive time trials and patronage surveys could proceed with the arrival of the new 405-seat ferry in December.
Mr Little — the former Essendon Football Club chairman — said the ferry featuring enhanced seating, a smoother sail, a cafe and wi-fi would be ideal for a Melbourne-Geelong service.
“We’ve got Geelong-based companies that are really keen to access a regular ferry service southbound for their staff,” he said.
“One of the firms would consider allowing their staff to clock on when they hop on board as long as they work all the way to Geelong and then clock on when they come back again.”
Mr Little said a new terminal at Station Pier would have the advantage of a faster commute time to Geelong than the estimated 100 minutes from Victoria Harbour at Docklands.
“Station Pier gives us a lot more flexibility, and with the state government’s current plans to be running a light rail into that whole Port Melbourne/Fishermans Bend area, we just think that the ferry has got a lot of upside there,” he said.
Mr Rance said that smaller 150-200-seat ferries could potentially be used for 17-minute morning and evening peak commuter services on the Yarra between Chapel St and Flinders St Station, and also for tourist runs.
“You could pick people up from Flinders St and you could drop them off at Botanic Gardens, you could drop them off at the tennis — there are a number of tourism spots along this journey that work,” he said.
Port Phillip Ferries was also being encouraged by the government to look at options for the eastern side of the bay including the Mornington Peninsula.
Mr Little said that there might be potential for a “grocery run” involving peninsula stops or just services between beach suburbs closer to the city.
“The possibilities are endless. You could run from Brighton, for example, or St Kilda to Geelong,” he said.
“The effort required to commute around the bay by car and rail is significant. We’re
just examining the feasibilities.”
Despite the setback over the Wyndham Harbour to Docklands trial, Mr Little — who made a fortune from transport logistics giant Toll Holdings — believed Melburnians wanted good ferry services.
“I think as the traffic congestion continues to aggravate most people who get caught in it, the stressless environment of a ferry can be very attractive,” he said.
JOHN MASANAUSKAS, CITY EDITOR, Herald Sun