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Yarra shuttle plan makes waves

12 Jun 2012

Yarra shuttle plan makes waves Image

This futuristic three-hulled vessel might be part of the City of Melbourne’s plans to utilise the Yarra River for public transport, but it has only been cautiously supported by Southbank boat operators.

The craft will be primarily aimed at visitors to the city and it is hoped it will utilise the MYKI ticketing system.

James Ganditis is the president of the Melbourne Passenger Boating Association (MPBA) and also runs Melbourne River Cruises. He said the idea of a public transport boat had been floated before but ultimately never worked.

“The introduction of vessels such as the one presently contemplated has been frequently discussed over many years but without resolution of the problems which have prevented its earlier introduction,” Mr Ganditis said.

“The MPBA and its members certainly support the development of a vessel such as this if its introductions grows and enhances Melbourne waterways tourism experience and the passenger boating industry.”

The design is said to overcome many of the problems passenger ferries have encounted in the past on the Yarra in its unique design.

It sits low enough in the water to ensure it can clear all bridges along the river no matter the tidal conditions, it is remarkably stable because of the multi-hulled design and throws almost no wash onto the river banks as it passes.

It will also be comfortable for passengers, as they are able to stand like they would on a tram or train, it has wheelchair-bound and bicycle access and allows passengers to embark and disembark at the same time.

Despite this Mr Ganditis is still unsure, saying: “Low wash fast ferries of multiple hull design have frequently been under consideration but due to existing speed limits they are a waste of money.”

Tim Bracher from the Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) said while the design looked good there are more difficult issues to overcome to get the boat operating.

“The proposed vessel looks great, but the floating infrastructure is the relatively easy part. Developing a workable, equitable and, above all, sustainable business model is the real challenge that needs to be addressed,” Mr Bracher said.

He also suggested any business model needed to take into account the current operators and ensure it doesn’t become “a constant drain on the public purse.”

“YRBA believes that the correct business model will be to harness the infrastructure and experience of the current water operators to operate an integrated system, within a government framework, similar to Kennett’s reform of the taxi industry in the mid 90s,” Mr Bracher said.

The City of Melbourne was non-committal to the new vessel, saying: “The City of Melbourne and Places Victoria are working with a range of stakeholders on ideas for transport options in and around Docklands. A ferry is one of the ideas currently being explored. Funding and implementation options are still to be confirmed.”

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