It remains unclear why Planning Minister Matthew Guy believes that the Government needs to spend $300,000 on a study into the viability of a commuter ferry on Port Philip Bay, according to candid statements in departmental documents released under Freedom of Information to State MP for Tarneit, Tim Pallas.

The documents show that the department’s advice is based on the most recent ferry study, produced in 2008 under the previous Government, which found that the ferry option was not financially or practically viable.

In the documents, internal communications from within the department note that “many of the issues raised in their report are also relevant for shorter services (such as Williamstown). Infrastructure, vessels and crew costs are largely fixed and … any vessel that can get further upriver than Docklands needs a low profile, making wheelchair access a technical challenge.”

Further, “interest in ferries comes up from time to time and our approach has been to offer interested possible private operators support and information about licensing and survey requirements etc., but to decline any request for subsidies. Most of the interest has been from tourism operators rather than public transport providers.”

A 2008 study, undertaken by Maunsell AECOM for the Department of Transport, investigated the possibility of a ferry stopping at Geelong, Portarlington and Werribee South. The report cited a specific berthing location in Werribee of Wyndham Cove.

The study found that travelling at the fastest speeds currently achievable, a ferry trip direct from Geelong would still take 48 minutes longer than the V/Line, that revenue would cover barely a third of operating costs and it would still be cheaper for commuters to drive or take the V/Line. It also found that demand was low and that the discomfort and cancellation risk likely due to the size and shape of waves on the Bay acted against demand increasing.

The study clearly found that such a ferry operating via Werribee would not be likely to provide either a cheaper or a faster alternative to road or rail and that the program would not be financially viable,” said Mr Pallas.

“A ferry on Port Philip Bay is an appealing idea, which is why the previous Government undertook a detailed investigation into whether it could be done. It found that it could not.”

“One wonders whether Mr Guy had even read the most recent study before announcing a new one, given that he told the Wyndham Weekly in August that the study had not looked at Werribee.”

“The Baillieu Government seems to have abandoned realistic and much needed projects like West Link in favour of pursuing impractical ideas that have already been investigated and rejected. This is the Geelong car trade debacle all over again,” said
Mr Pallas.

Related Topics