Submission to the Sydney Ferries proposed timetable amendments

CPSA's submission on the proposed timetable amendments for Sydney Ferries services

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Introduction

CPSA welcomes the opportunity to provide comment on the proposed timetable changes to Sydney Ferries services. Appropriate availability, accessibility and affordability of public transport are all points of major concern for our members and wider constituency.

CPSA welcomes the proposals to increase services on weekends on a number of Sydney Ferry services. However, there is great concern about a number of intended changes, particularly the reduction of off-peak services, and the reduction of some peak services and the discontinuation of services to and from supposedly under-utilised stops. This will particularly impact on pensioners, seniors and families who tend to be highest users of weekday off-peak services and who require stops to be as close to their point of departure and arrival as possible due to mobility difficulties. Furthermore, it will impact on the many thousands of commuters using the ferries in off-peak periods.

Negative spiral effect

Before any services are to be cut or reduced, a number of other worthwhile options should be considered. CPSA believes that it is a false argument to use low patronage and utilisation as justification for reducing or removing services as such circumstances produce a negative spiralling effect: inadequate services lead to low patronage, giving reason to reduce services, which in turn further reduces patronage.

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Impact of proposals to reduce services

Increased demand on buses and increased private vehicle use

Reducing services will increase demand for other modes of public transport in the Sydney Ferries network area, particularly buses. Many bus services are already under substantial demand and struggle to arrive on time in heavy traffic. Fewer and less frequent ferries will only exacerbate this situation. What is worse, many patrons will find that their only transport alternative is their car. Roads in the Sydney Ferries network area are already too heavily congested. Increasing private vehicle use has negative financial effect for individuals, as the cost of car maintenance, fuel, and tolls is typically higher than that of public transport. More importantly, increased car use is in stark contrast to the NSW Government’s carbon emissions abatement policies, and it is unclear why the NSW Government would encourage high-emission behaviour in Sydney by reducing public transport. Public transport policy should focus on building a well-connected network that fosters public transport use rather than directly or indirectly discouraging people from using public transport.  

Negative impact on social inclusion

A reduction of services that are particularly utilised by pensioners, seniors and families will have a severe and detrimental effect on their ability to independently go about their day-to-day activities such as shopping, attending medical appointments, volunteering, working, and socialising.

Many may be ‘cut off’ from these activities if their public transport options are reduced or removed. People who are frail or people with a disability may be able to access Community Transport services, but these services are limited in frequency and availability and can be expensive. Not all pensioners, older people and people with disability are automatically eligible and even eligibility does not guarantee service. At most, those eligible generally access one trip per week. Public transport services, such as those provided by Sydney Ferries, play an integral role in ensuring the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of many people in society.

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Potential solutions

Affordability

Ferry services are typically the most expensive public transport services in Sydney. Although affordability is not directly in the scope of this review, it can have a significant impact on the decisions of patrons to use one mode of transport over another. Reduced ferry ticket prices would enable ferry services to better compete with that of bus services and private vehicle use. They would have a positive impact on road congestion and would dramatically improve currently underutilised services.

CPSA has long called on the NSW Government to expand the $2.50 Pensioner Excursion Ticket to all concession card holders. This would enable more people on low-incomes to afford travel in search of work or for education or training purposes.

Examination of routes

Sydney Ferries should examine joining routes, or underutilised stops to other routes, where possible. For example, rather than reducing the number of services from Circular Quay to Mosman Bay, underutilised journeys in off-peak times could be attached to regular Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo services as currently occurs on Saturdays.

Ferry fleet appropriateness

Rather than use large ferries that are expensive to run and maintain for all services on a given route (leading to exceedingly large underutilisation rates), Sydney Ferries should examine whether it would be more efficient to acquire smaller ferries for use at certain times on appropriate routes. Such ferries would be better suited to off-peak periods and would allow for more frequent services. Although they may provide a slower service, passengers would be more concerned with the potential loss of frequent services than having fast services which are few and far between.

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