Say Goodbye to Sydney’s Iconic Manly Ferries

You’d think with everything going on right now that the NSW State Government would try to limit the amount of negative press and dirty laundry that’s around, but nope. Before Gladys‘ juicy back door corruption gossip hit the front pages, another big name MP was acting a little too recklessly when he announced the retiring and removal of the great Manly ferry fleet.

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Announcing that “their time has come,” Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the expensive to maintain Freshwater-class “is at the end of its life after 40 years”. While his preference is to keep at least one on the harbour, Constance revealed the government is yet to make that “final determination.”

Notably immortalised by Australian Crawl’s classic song Reckless, the famous Manly to Circular Quay route saw its ferry’s named after beaches in Sydney’s north. The first of the double-ended ferries named after Freshwater beach, launched in 1982, followed less than a year later by the Queenscliff, before being doubled up by the Narrabeen in 1984 and the Collaroy in 1988.

Slammed by Labor opposition leader, Jodi McKay described the decision to replace the ferries was “a kick in the guts to both our local manufacturing workforce and to commuters”. She highlights the replacement vessels as “proof of the folly of buying cheap overseas built ferries” and government money should be spent in NSW to help kick-start the economy.

Coming just three years after Sydney’s last two Lady-class ferries made their last regular sailings after four decades of carrying passengers, it also follows the recent ferry ducking debacle along the Parramatta River. The plan will see the iconic Freshwater fleet replaced by French company Transdev’s Emerald-class catamaran vessels that have space for roughly 400 people, cutting capacity on the route by 60%.

To make things even worse, according to The Maritime Union of Australia, the new catamarans are unable to operate in the five-metre swells that the Freshwater-class can handle with ease while crossing the heads. This despite reports the new vessels will be built with a strengthened hull.

Comparing them to the likes of “the Staten Island ferries out of New York, the Star ferries out of Hong Kong, or the cable cars out of San Francisco,” MUA Sydney Branch Assistant Secretary Paul Garrett said Manly ferries were an internationally recognised Australian institution and “the jewel in the crown for Sydney Harbour”.

Locals are calling the move to retire the ferry service by 2022 “devastating” with Graeme Taylor, from community group Action for Public Transport, describing the Manly ferries as part of the city’s fabric, and were an international tourist attraction. “It is just devastating. They are iconic,” he said. “They run all four of them over summer and they fill up all trips. These boats take 45,000 people a day to Manly in the summer,” Mr Taylor said of the Freshwaters.

Likely to increase an ever-busier military road, with no signs of the northern beaches tunnel in sight, Mr Taylor said their retirement would cripple visitation to the northern beaches via traffic gridlock, even with the addition of the B1 express line. Transdev, however, claims its customers want “more frequent services and operating Emerald-class ferries on this route will deliver this”.

When Constance was asked regarding Sydneysiders being too sentimental about the outgoing Freshwater ferries, in comparison to replacing buses and trains, Mr Constance said: “Yes.” Well as someone who is nostalgic for the old school Ridgey’s that ran the OG CityLink, then call me overly sentimental.

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