Many of Sydney’s ferry services now experience their peak loads for the week on Sundays. Photo: James AlcockTaxpayers are paying “substantial amounts” to Sydney’s main private ferry operator for extra services because locals and tourists are rushing to take advantage of a $2.50 cap on fares on Sundays.
Demand for ferries on Sundays to destinations such as Taronga Zoo and stops along the Parramatta River has risen substantially since the $2.50 limit was introduced several years ago. In response, the state’s pricing regulator wants to increase ferry fares on Sunday to spread the demand.
Many ferry services now experience their peak loads for the week on Sundays as travellers delay their trips to take advantage of the cheaper fares.
Transport for NSW has told the state’s pricing regulator that Harbour City Ferries is receiving “substantial amounts” to provide extra services on Sundays to cope with the demand.
However, the department will not reveal how much the government is paying the private operator, citing commercial sensitivities.
The state government awarded Harbour City Ferries – a consortium of ASX-listed Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield Services) and multinational Transdev – an $800 million contract in 2012 to operate Sydney Ferries for seven years.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal believes the $2.50 cap on the cost of public transport on Sundays is “too low”, especially for ferries, and is a key reason for the spike in demand on Sundays.
“Private ferry operators are being paid substantial amounts to provide supplementary services,” the tribunal said in an information paper.
“High demand for ferry services is driving up the costs of providing public transport.”
Many passengers are also able to travel for free on weekends because they often reach their weekly travel reward. Under the existing structure, travel is free after eight trips in a week.
The tribunal’s analysis shows ferry loads on Sundays has increased significantly since the $2.50 travel cap was introduced several years ago. Ferry services to destinations such as Taronga Zoo, Manly, the eastern suburbs and along the Parramatta River now report peak loads for the week on Sundays.
Outbound ferries from central Sydney to stops in the eastern suburbs and along the Parramatta River operated at more than 100 per cent of their maximum capacity on Sundays in May last year when a count was carried out by the Bureau of Transport Statistics.
The pricing regulator wants the daily cap for Opal fares on Saturday and Sunday set at the same level in order to spread demand more evenly over the weekend. It has proposed a daily cap for travel at weekends at $7.20 for adults, $5.40 for concession-card holders and $3.60 for children and Gold Opal holders.
However, the tribunal decided against recommending in its draft report, released just before Christmas, to exclude ferry services from the Sunday cap because it believed it would be confusing for passengers if it applied to only some modes of public transport.
A spokesman for Transport for NSW said the tribunal’s review of public transport fares needed to be looked at in its entirety.
“These are draft recommendations and I urge customers to take a close look at what’s been proposed and provide feedback before the final report is delivered to government,” he said.
The first of six new ferries the government is buying as part of the first stage of upgrading Sydney’s fleet will begin sailing late this year. They will service routes in the inner harbour from Watsons Bay in the east to Cockatoo Island in the west.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.