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Friday, 15 December 2017

Manly Fast Ferry and the Opal card

There is much that's admirable about Manly Fast Ferries:
  • as far as I know, the company attracts no Government subsidy;
  • peak services run at 10 minute intervals and every 20 minutes off peak. This is a more frequent ferry service than any other route on Sydney Harbour;
  • journey time is 18 minutes, compared to 30 minutes on the "slow ferry" - the iconic double ended Manly ferry operated by Harbour City Ferries under the Sydney Ferries public transport contract;
  • fares are generally cheaper than the Opal card fare on the slow ferry - $6.99 for peak services compared to the slow ferry Opal fare of $7.35; and
  • daily patronage is 11,000 (all eight routes operated by Harbour City Ferries carry an average of 43,000 passengers daily).
What was missing was fare integration. It's inconvenient for passengers to use different ticketing systems for different operators or different modes. And passengers should not be penalised for having to transfer to a bus or train to complete their journey.

So when it was announced that the Opal card would be recognised on the Manly Fast Ferry from Sunday 17 December, many passengers were probably quite excited. Unfortunately, the reality is not what they might be expecting:
  • the adult fare is $8.70, $1.71 more than it is for holders of the existing Manly Fast Ferry Smartcard travelling on a peak service;
  • travel on the Manly Fast Ferry is not recognised for the daily travel cap of $15.40 or the weekly or Sunday caps;
  • none of the other Opal "perks" apply - transfer discount of $2 and Opal concession fares.
If a passenger doesn't have a Manly Fast Ferry smartcard and they are running late, yes they may use their Opal card. But otherwise, who would?

It is quite understandable that Manly Fast Ferries would seek to protect its revenue base. It would not, for example, wish to forego revenue lost through the daily or weekly caps, or transfer discounts. 

But given the quality of public transport provided by Manly Fast Ferries, at no cost to the taxpayer, one would have thought that a small compensatory payment could be made by Transport for NSW to MFF. This would cover any revenue loss caused by offering Fast Ferry passengers the usual benefits enjoyed by Opalcard users. The benefits need not extend to the $2.60 Sunday cap or $2.50 Gold Opal daily cap, which are excessive perks that Sydneysiders need to be weaned off at some point.


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