Ferry Logo

Ferry Logo

Thursday, 4 December 2014

More about the new ferry fleet design for Sydney

There's a lot to like about the new ferry design. Perhaps it's the seductive Transport for NSW video. The author has now watched it far too many times, but then this is necessary for professional reasons to take in all the detail.

Sure, a double ended catamaran might be more practical. This would remove the need for ferries to make those dangerous reversing manoeuvres at Circular Quay or Barangaroo and reduce transit time.

And a big capacity (400 passenger) vessel is expensive to run and probably locks the ferries into a 30 minute interval network in the Inner Harbour. Smaller vessels operating at lower cost and higher frequency could create a better quality public transport system with greater ridership.

The heart, however, says the new boat is beautiful.

The original Alan Payne designed First Fleet Ferries are cute and stubby, but the lines of the new design are somehow more graceful and better proportioned. This may simply be because the original design in 1982 was cruelly shortened by the Urban Transit Authority in a failed attempt to save on crewing levels. Perhaps the upper deck of the original design had a similar spacious open area for passengers to enjoy views of Sydney Harbour.

Not sure, but whatever happened in history, the new design by the Sydney naval architect team One2Three seems to have corrected the wrongs committed more than 30 years ago.

The new design has much to admire. The seating arrangements look relaxed and spacious. As one would expect, the old First Fleeter seating, reminiscent of a Commonwealth Employment Service waiting room circa 1983, is replaced by something more comfortable, including some (but not too many) seats with tables.  Crews like the practicality of vinyl, but passengers will appreciate the comfort of new seats.

Boarding will be faster as the entry inside on the main deck is much wider and more open than the old ferry. It is hard to see a log jam of strollers posing a problem here.

Bike racks on the main deck will be a boon for cyclists. 

With a maximum operating speed of 24 knots, it has the flexibility to handle the open water runs to Rose Bay and Watsons Bay and could pick up a bit of time on the Cockatoo Island run once it heads west of Ballast Point. No doubt it has a low wash design, so recreational vessels moored in the inner harbour will not be subject to the tsunami's sometimes inflicted by the old First Fleeters.

Best of all, the open seating on the upper deck looks fantastic. There will be a stampede for the seats in front of the wheelhouse.

One word of caution: gangways. Followers of this blog will know it is an obsession of the author. Please let there be more advanced gangway technology on the new vessels to speed up embarkation and disembarkation. The animation in the video shows gangways ominously similar to the current design.

Apart from this reservation, congratulations to the One2Three team and to Minister Gladys Berejiklian for extending the life of one of Sydney's great icons.     

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