Ferries' French flavour

After months of deliberation, the NSW Government has chosen the Veolia Transdev – Transfield Services consortium to run Sydney’s ferries

Ferries' French flavour
Ferries’ French flavour

By David Goeldner | May 4, 2012

The operation of Sydney’s iconic harbour ferries has gone to private hands with this week’s announcement that the Harbour City Ferries consortium of Veolia Transdev and Transfield Services will run operations from July.

Harbour City Ferries fended off tender bids from noted bus operator Transit Systems and immigration detention centre contractor Serco, after an exhaustive process which commenced early last year.

Not since La Perouse scouted Botany Bay in the 18th century will the French connection around Sydney’s waterways be so strong, given Veolia’s corporate roots in France.

However Harbour City Ferries CEO Steffen Faurby says any changes to ferry operations won’t be noticed by patrons.

"We want to operate a world class ferry service on what is often cited as the world’s most beautiful harbour,’ Faurby says.

"‘We acknowledge and respect Sydney Ferries rich history and, accordingly, there will be a steady transition into capable hands and only minor changes will be noticed over the short term," he says.

Faurby says the consortium’s goal is to gradually raise the customer experience to another level by listening to customers and tailor-making improvements around their expectations.

"We look forward to working closely with customers and the NSW Government to evolve this iconic service," he says.

The estimated contract value over the seven year period is $800 million with the possibility of an extension if performance targets are met.

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian says the new operator was selected based on the best package of approaches to improving customer service, safety, operations, maintenance and management of the Sydney Ferries workforce.

"The NSW Government will work in partnership with the new operator to improve services for ferry customers," she says.

The announcement also comes six months earlier than expected, with a new operator originally planned to take over the harbour fleet’s operation at the end of the year.

Under a franchise model the NSW Government will retain ownership of Sydney Ferries’ existing vessels and the Balmain Shipyard, and will retain full control over fares and service levels.

"Importantly for customers, the colours of the existing Sydney Ferries fleet will be retained and so will the name ‘Sydney Ferries’," Berejiklian says.

"Existing services and fares will continue as normal as the operator focuses on improving services for customers."

Berejiklian says a key responsibility for the new operator will be to improve the customer experience for the 14 million trips carried out on ferries each year.

Faurby says Harbour City Ferries won’t make change for change’s sake.

"We will respect the traditions of Sydney Ferries and we will not change the livery or the vessels," he says.

"We will ensure a smooth and orderly transition from public to private operator, while ensuring the highest safety standards and good operational performance."

Faurby says the main areas of focus will be on efficiency, reliability, cleanliness, safety and ensuring that customers are dealing with friendlier staff attuned to customers’ wants and needs.

"All changes enacted will be based on what customers tell us," he says.

The contract is expected to commence at the end of July 2012.

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