The first upgrade was Milsons Point in December 2010. As new transport infrastructure goes, this wharf was a great disappointment. The pontoon is tiny, passenger ramps are confusing and it lacks the vital ingredient of a ferry terminal at this particular location - a second berthing face so two ferries can load passengers at the same time.
These shortcomings did not stop the Milsons Point wharf winning an architecture prize. The architect's description suggests functional considerations were not front of mind:
"The design responds to the varied and sinuous nature of the harbour's edge and its remnant forests by developing forms, material and colour selections that provide a sophisticated and complimentary group of elements."
Whatever happened to form follows function?
But RMS should not cop all the blame. The upgrade program would have been strengthened by earlier, more detailed planning for the network and fleet replacement. Sydney would then have wharf infrastructure that properly matched the fleet and network.
But let's turn now to the immediate.
The upgraded Cremorne Point wharf reopened yesterday.
It is certainly impressive. And that's not just because of the crystal clear waters of Sydney Harbour lapping on the pontoon, the dappled shade cast by the fig trees on the shore or the views of the Opera House.
While it has the same look and feel of all the wharves in the upgrade program, it is the subtle changes which make a difference. RMS, and probably those who were consulted in the design process, have obviously learnt from earlier mistakes.
For a start, the pontoon is a generous size with the seating area located at the eastern end. As the seats are off to one side, they do not interfere with passenger ingress and egress as they do at Rose Bay, Neutral Bay and Thames Street Balmain.
Fenders are widely spaced and the deckhands seem to have little difficulty tying lines or planking the gangway. The pontoon sits a little high in the water for a First Fleeter, but this can't be helped because of the unfortunate variation in freeboard in the Sydney Ferry fleet.
I haven't seen the Lady Herron berth at the new wharf yet so don't know whether the hydraulic gangways on this vessel pose any problems.
The pontoon should be big and stable enough to withstand the gales that Cremorne Point is famous for.
The one nagging concern is whether the pontoon should be just that little longer to accommodate dual berthing at a future point in time. It works fine now with a five minute separation in departures for inbound and outbound vessels, but if we are to have a big pontoon, why not make it that little bit longer so two First Fleeters can berth bow on bow? It might come in handy with future timetable changes.
But this is nit picking. Well done Roads and Maritime Services!