|Transit type||Passenger ferry|
|Owner||Transport for NSW|
|Operator||Harbour City Ferries|
|No. of lines||8|
|No. of vessels||32|
Sydney Ferries is the public transport ferry network serving the Australian city of Sydney, New South Wales. Services operate on Sydney Harbour and the connecting Parramatta River. The network is controlled by the New South Wales Government's transport authority, Transport for NSW, and is part of the authority's Opal ticketing system. In 2017-18, 15.3 million passenger journeys were made on the network.
Services are operated under contract by Harbour City Ferries. Sydney Ferries Corporation is the state government agency that owns the ferry fleet.
Sydney Ferries can trace its origins as far back as the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove where in 1789, the first ferry service was established from the Cove to the farming settlement of Parramatta. The first vessel, officially named the Rose Hill Packet (otherwise known as 'The Lump'), was crafted by convicts and powered by sails and oars. Trips inland from Sydney Cove to Parramatta typically took up to one week to complete. As time progressed, a series of rowboat ferrymen set up small operations to transport people from either side of Sydney Harbour. Formal, timetabled ferry services began with the advent of steam propulsion which enabled regularity, the first such service being operated on the Parramatta River by PS Surprise from 1831.
Cross-harbour services began in 1842 and this business grew to such an extent that a public company was formed, the North Shore Steam Ferry Co. Ltd. in 1878.
In 1900, the North Shore company was reincorporated as Sydney Ferries Limited (SFL), which progressively took over most other harbour ferry services (except notably the Manly service operated by the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company), and became the world's largest ferry operator by fleet size. After the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in March 1932, SFL patronage dropped almost overnight, decreasing from 44 to 20 million passengers per year.
In 1951, the NSW Government intervened in response to the financial difficulties of SFL and agreed to take over its fleet. The assets were taken over by the Sydney Harbour Transport Board with operations and maintenance contracted to the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. This arrangement lasted until 1974, after which services were operated by government agencies; the Public Transport Commission (1974-1980), Urban Transit Authority (1980-1989), State Transit Authority (1989-2004) and Sydney Ferries Corporation (2004-2012).
On 3 April 2007 the New South Wales Government appointed Bret Walker, a Senior Counsel, to undertake a commission of inquiry into Sydney Ferries' operations.Submissions to Walker's inquiry were critical of many aspects of the operation of Sydney Ferries from fare levels and infrequent services to the design of gangways and the choice of potentially unsafe livery colours for some vessels. Walker's report, delivered in November 2007, was highly critical of the Ferries management, industrial relations and government interference. Walker made several major recommendations including the urgent replacement of the entire ageing fleet of vessels and handing day-to-day operations over to a private sector operator whilst the NSW government retained the fleet and other assets, in public ownership.
In 2008, the NSW Government called for private sector bids to provide ferry services under a services contract,however the government later decided to keep Sydney Ferries as a state owned and operated entity. On 1 January 2009, Sydney Ferries became a NSW Government agency.
In February 2009, private operator Bass & Flinders Cruises took over the high speed jet cat service to Manly.In April 2010, the NSW Government decided the service contract would remain with the Sydney Ferries Corporation.
In 2011, following a change in state government, it was decided to contract out the operation of Sydney Ferries to the private sector, with the government retaining ownership of both the Balmain Maintenance Facility and the ferry fleet, under the agency Sydney Ferries.
On 28 July 2012, Harbour City Ferries, a 50/50 joint venture between Transfield Services (later Broadspectrum) and Transdev Australasia, began operating the services of Sydney Ferries under a seven-year contract.In December 2016, Transdev Australasia exercised an option to purchase Broadspectrum's share.
In August 2018, expressions of interest were called for the next contract to commence in July 2019.
Sydney Ferries operates services on eight routes:
The hub of the network is at Circular Quay; seven routes terminate there, while the F4 route passes through.
The Sydney Ferries fleet consists of 32 vessels divided into six classes.
Planning has commenced for four new ferries for Parramatta River services.In January 2019 these plans were shelved due to the lack of availability of suitable vessels from shipbuilders.
|First Fleet||9||1984-86||393/403||Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Eastern Suburbs|
|HarbourCat||2||1998||150||Inner Harbour, Parramatta|
|Emerald||6||2017||400||Eastern Suburbs, Inner Harbour|
The following table lists patronage figures for the network during the corresponding financial year. Australia's financial years start on 1 July and end on 30 June. Major events that affected the number of journeys made or how patronage is measured are included as notes.
|4 947 000|
Patronage split post-November
Patronage split pre-November
|1 506 000|
|†||2 900 000|
|2 545 000|
Sydney Ferries uses the Opal ticketing system.Opal is also valid on bus, train and light rail services but separate fares apply for these modes. The following table lists Opal fares for reusable smartcards and single trip tickets as of 2 July 2018:
|Ferry||0–9 km||9 km+|
|Adult single trip||$7.40||$9.20|
|Child/Youth single trip||$3.70||$4.60|
^ = $2.50 for Pensioner/Senior cardholders
Balmain Shipyard in Mort Bay was established about 1890 by Balmain Ferry Company as a depot, ferry wharf and ferry coaling wharf but through amalgamations and government takeovers, has become the present Sydney Ferries’ Maintenance Facility and Training base and is leased to Harbour City Ferries.
On 12 May 2004 the Louise Sauvage crashed into a wharf at Rose Bay. A small number of minor injuries resulted from the accident, which was blamed on a steering mechanism fault.
In January 2007, one man died after a Sydney RiverCat, Dawn Fraser, collided with a dinghy.
In March 2007, a Sydney Ferries vessel crashed into a whale-watching ship before hitting Pyrmont Bridge in Darling Harbour.
On Wednesday, 28 March 2007, the Sydney Ferries HarbourCat Pam Burridge collided with a private vessel, the Merinda beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Four people, including a fourteen-year-old girl, were killed in the accident. The Office of Transport Safety Investigations found that the Merinda was not exhibiting the required navigation lights and had not maintained a proper look-out.The summary of the Coroner’s Report noted "It was the error made in failing to illuminate the navigation lights [on the private vessel Merinda] that allowed the other causal factors to align to create a cascading causal effect resulting in the collision. Australian skating champion Sean Carlow was among the survivors of the accident. His mother and coach, former Australian Olympic competitor Liz Cain, had a leg amputated. One of the dead was a skating judge who had officiated at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships the previous week.
On 23 November 2008, at 17:15 the Lady Northcott ran into the stern of Friendship while the former was berthing behind the latter at Circular Quay. No one was on board the Friendship, and no passengers were injured on the Lady Northcott.
On 6 April 2009 the Lady Northcott crashed into rocks after it overshot Taronga Zoo wharf. No one was injured in the accident, and it was blamed on driver error.
On 11 October 2010 at 08:47 the HarbourCat ferry Anne Sergeant ran into the Kirribilli Jeffrey Street wharf. One passenger was taken to hospital with some other passengers receiving minor injuries.
On 7 November 2010, at approximately 16:30, a speedboat crashed into the Fantasea Spirit (owned and operated by Palm Beach Ferries, operating for Sydney Ferries) 100m from Meadowbank wharf on the Parramatta River, injuring six people. The skipper of the speedboat, a 49-year-old Dundas man, was charged with culpably navigating in a dangerous manner causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) and operating a recreational vessel negligently causing death or GBH.
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