Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sydney ferries to be privatised

Many New Englanders will have happy memories of Sydney’s ferries and especially the Manly service including the iconic South Steyne.

I see from the Sydney Morning Herald that the Walker Report has recommended the privatisation of Sydney’s ferry services. Apparently the report was absolutely scathing about ferry management and the Government’s interference in that service. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

I also see from the same story that John Watkins, the Sydney Government’s transport spokesman, is reported as saying that there is no more public money available for infrastructure in NSW. The budget has been exhausted. Again, why doesn’t that surprise me?

I wonder how many remember that the Manly service itself was run by a listed public company, the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Co. Ltd?

This company ran the service very successfully for very many years. However, in the sixties and seventies increased competition from other transport modes forced the service into a loss. In 1972 Port Jackson was taken over by Brambles.

The new owners had no interest in the ferry service and let it run down. The Sydney Government was forced to take it over 1974. In that year, too, the South Steyne itself caught fire caught fire and was badly damaged. The South Steyne was later restored by volunteers and can now be found at Sydney's Darling Harbour.

Will privatisation work this time? It may, simply because the new owners will be able to run the ferry services without the heavy administrative overlay that seems to be inevitably attached to Government ownership.

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