TRANSPORT | DALLAS SHERRINGHAM
THE first of the controversial new ‘ugly duckling’ River Class ferries has entered service in wet conditions on the Parramatta River.
It is the first in a production line of 10 new River Class vessels and is named after NSW author Ruby Langford Ginibi.
The new ferry is now in passenger service after it was given the green light to operate during the day.
Minister for Transport and Roads Rob Stokes said the new River Class ferries were designed for conditions along the Parramatta River, but will also serve customers right across the ferry network.
“The new ferries have already completed many hours of successful day time operation during water trials and have passed the strictest of safety standards to get to this point, and it is great to now have the first vessel in service,” Mr Stokes said.
“Birdon employed 54 people working on the project locally at Port Macquarie, with Australian suppliers benefiting from 70% per cent of the total program of work. All of the design work was also undertaken right here in Australia.
“Customers are already benefiting from the new ferries’ floor to ceiling windows, level boarding access, audible and visual announcements, hearing loops, priority seating for the elderly and mobility impaired customers and wheelchair facilities.”
Until the new River Class ferries are available for night time operations, existing fleet will continue to be used to ensure continuity of services for customers.
The ferries have been the subject of widespread criticism along with the new Manly vessels because of their “ugly” exterior design and failure to maintain the traditional look of Sydney’s famous ferries.
Legendary steam ferries like South Steyne and North Head made Sydney ferries world famous in the golden years of Harbor travel when Manly was “Seven miles from Sydney, 1000 miles from Care”.
They were followed by the Freshwater class which maintained and enhanced the traditional ferry design including the famous Green and Gold livery.
The loss of the traditional ferries has been widely criticized as a major blow to tourism, particularly on the Manly run.
During the coming weeks and months, the rest of the new River fleet will progressively roll out for daytime operations, while work is undertaken to reduce the glare in the wheelhouse at night.
The remaining nine ferries are named after some of the state’s other leading authors, artists and athletes.