Private operator to take control of ferry services
May 3, 2012
Little change … Harbour City will run ferry services by late July or August. Most staff have agreed to keep working for the new operator. Photo: Ben Rushton
SYDNEY’S ferry services will be run by a private operator within months after the government granted the contract this week to a joint bid by two large multinational companies.
The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, will announce today Harbour City Ferries, a consortium of Transfield Services and Veolia Transdev, has won the right to operate Sydney’s ferry system over competing bids from the detention centre operator Serco, Transit Systems and Forgacs Engineering.
Harbour City will run the services by late July or August, almost six months before the government’s previous timetable of the end of the year.
Commuters can expect little change, initially at least. Most existing staff have agreed to keep working for the new operator, which will also retain the colours of the existing fleet, and assume the Sydney Ferries name.
It is unclear how much Harbour City’s contract will cost, but government sources say it will be well below the cost of maintaining the services in state control.
”Existing services and fares will continue as normal as the operator focuses on improving services for customers,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The chief executive of Harbour City Ferries, Steffen Faurby, said: ”We acknowledge and respect Sydney Ferries’ rich history and, accordingly, there will be a steady transition into capable hands and only minor changes will be noticed over the short term.
”Our goal is to gradually raise the customer experience to another level by listening to customers and tailor-making improvements around their expectations,” he said.
Privatising, or ”franchising” ferry services, was the policy of the Labor government under the former premier Nathan Rees, following a commission of inquiry headed by Bret Walker, SC.
Later the Keneally government reneged on the policy, which was adopted by the Coalition in opposition.
The Walker inquiry also recommended urgent plans to start replacing the ageing fleet of Sydney Ferries.
However, the O’Farrell government has not indicated how it plans to replace the fleet, and has denied freedom-of-information requests into these details.
Members of the Maritime Union of Australia working for Sydney Ferries have already agreed to go to work for the new operator under an agreement that provides for no compulsory redundancies for at least two years, as well as one-off bonus payments of up to 30 weeks’ pay.
The bid by Transfield and Veolia, which brought together two large infrastructure providers, had been considered the favourite for the contract.