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Ten new Sydney ferries will not be able to pass under two bridges on the Parramatta River if commuters are seated on the top deck, the government has confirmed.
The new River Class ferries, which have been built in Indonesia and shipped to Australia, are due to enter service on Sydney Harbour later this year.
Sydney's new ferries, which won't be able to accommodate passengers on the upper deck when they pass under two bridges. CREDIT:JOHN BENNETT
But passengers seated on the top deck will need to be called below before the new ferries can pass under the Camellia Railway Bridge and the Gasworks Bridge near Parramatta.
“While customers are able to enjoy the upper deck during their commute, they will need to move to the lower deck when passing the bridge,” a Transport for NSW spokeswoman said.
Opposition transport spokesman Chris Minns said the “fiasco” posed a safety risk and would cost transport workers time to police.
“Unless Andrew Constance himself is going to yell ‘duck’ as these ferries pass under bridges this looks to be a huge time waste for ferry staff,” Mr Minns said.
A street view of Gasworks Bridge at Parramatta.CREDIT:GOOGLE MAPS
“Now alongside late-running trains and COVID-safe buses, commuters will have to worry about bridges knocking their heads off as they battle Sydney’s transport.”
The TfNSW spokeswoman said the government and ferry operator Transdev were aware of the issue when the vessels were ordered, and pointed to some charter boats that have a viewing deck that also experience the issue.
But ferry expert Graeme Taylor, from Action for Public Transport, said most charter vessels didn’t venture to Parramatta as much as the new ferries would need to.
“They bought an off-the-shelf option so the thing doesn’t fit properly,” Mr Taylor said.
“[People] would be severed from the waist up, at high tide it's a matter of centimetres.
The government says the ferry operator will implement “operational procedures” to remove people from the top deck before it reaches the low lying bridges, including signage, announcements and crew directing commuters.
The new vessels have capacity for 200, including 122 indoor seats, 18 outdoor seats on the lower deck, and 10 seats on the upper deck.
The ferries will be added to circulation with the existing River Cats, which seat 230 people. They will replace the SuperCats, HarbourCats and four charter vessels that are supplementing regular services.
Four of the 10 ferries recently arrived in Newcastle where they will undergo completion works and trials.
“Details of the names for the new ferries will be released in the coming weeks,” the TfNSW spokeswoman said.
Mr Minns said the bridge problem was an example of problems borne out of governments outsourcing manufacturing overseas.
“This will rank alongside intercity trains that don’t fit the track, or the ‘Ferry McFerry Face’ fiasco as another national joke,” he said.
The cost of leasing the new ferries is part of the $1.3 billion contract awarded to Transdev in February 2019.
The contract also includes the cost of operating Sydney Ferries for the next nine years and the trial of On Demand services.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance was contacted for comment.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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