“I’m working constructively with Transport and Minister [Andrew] Constance to have it continued into the future,” he said. “I’ve also raised the possibility of having the service expanded and will continue lobbying for this.”
However, a Transport for NSW spokeswoman told The Sun-Herald the ferry service will be replaced with alternative school bus services that may add up to 20 minutes to journey times.
“Other ferry customers will be able to catch existing regular bus services, or a combination of bus and train services to complete their journey,” she said. “Some ferry wharves will continue to be served by other ferry services.”
Captain Cook Cruises announced the end of the ferry service in a letter dated December 3, telling commuters the service had operated at a loss for many years.
“[A]s tourism has been hit hard over the last 15 months, our ability to keep subsidising the service has declined,” it said.
A subsidy provided by the NSW government last year to continue operating the ferry service had not been renewed, the ferry operator said.
It costs the state government up to $5000 per student a year to maintain the ferry service for student travel, compared with about $750 per student for new bus routes.
More than two-thirds of ferry users are students of St Ignatius’ College, with about 50 to 60 adult passengers, a Transport for NSW spokeswoman said. Students from Loreto Kirribilli and St Aloysius College also use the ferry service.
Three new school bus services will be introduced, but the spokeswoman said: “Some students travelling from areas such as Balmain and Woolwich can expect their journey time to increase by up to 20 minutes.”
Saint Ignatius’ principal Paul Hines said the Lane Cove ferry service had been a mode of transport to and from the school for many decades.
“We’re very disappointed to have recently received notification of the termination of the service from 18 December 2020, which will impact over 120 students who travel on the ferry regularly,” he said.
New bus routes to replace the ferry service have been proposed by the NSW government, but timetables and commuting times will not be available until mid-January, Dr Hines said.
The cancellation of Lane Cove ferries has triggered dismay among passengers such as Matt Egerton-Warburton, who commutes daily on the ferry from Riverview to the city with his 10-year-son Bede, a student and chorister at St Mary’s Cathedral College.
Mr Egerton-Warburton said the ferry trip with his son was one of the highlights of his day.
“The ferry provides breathing space before work and a wind down after work,” he said. “It sure beats therapy.”
He also said the ferry was “faster, cleaner and greener” than a bus and relieved traffic congestion.
“The service is very badly marketed – Captain Cook could easily increase usage with a simple, cheap marketing campaign,” he said. “With a bit more care and effort the service could be profitable.”
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Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.