By: Fabian Cotter

METRO TASMANIA – the largest bus passenger transport company on ‘The Apple Isle’ – could soon be offering commuters ferry services as well, given impending new legislation to be introduced by the State Government to “manage road and infrastructure challenges, such as the increased traffic flows along our main arterials,” according to Jeremy Rockliff, Tasmanian Minister for Infrastructure, announced recently.

Artist's impression of a Metro Tasmania ferry wharf. (Pic supplied: Tasmanian State Govt).

A state-owned company established in February 1998, Metro Tasmania Pty Ltd trades as Metro and operates bus services in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie.

The increased traffic flows are due to Tasmania’s "booming" and "growing" economy, which is why, "the Hodgman Liberal Government is getting on with the job of delivering on our plan to invest in infrastructure and our transport network to better connect us to work, school, and our community," the Government states.

According to Minister Rockliff recently, "…in Parliament we are tabling legislation that will, as promised during the Election, allow for a new Derwent River ferry service between Bellerive and Sullivans Cove."

"Our Bill will amend the Metro Tasmania Act 1997 to enable the state-owned company to operate river ferries and allow the service to become part of the public transport network.

"The Tasmanian Government is committed to helping ease Hobart’s current congestion problems, which is why we are providing $2 million towards this new initiative, which could potentially see thousands of vehicles off roads in and around the city.

"Port-side infrastructure for the service will be provided by TasPorts, with two new ferry terminals to be established on both the Western and Eastern Shores. Further public ferry infrastructure will be considered at other locations to be determined by passenger demand following the demonstrated success of the Hobart to Bellerive services."

Minister Rockliff added: "The new service will complement our raft of other Greater Hobart traffic measures, including the take-over of Davey and Macquarie Streets from the Hobart City Council to enable better traffic flow, and investing $35 million to construct a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet."

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However, not everyone is smitten with the planned new services. As reported on www.abc.net.au, transport economist and urban geographer Bob Cotgrove doubts the value of the plan.

"I question the whole idea of the Government though, there's a cargo cult mentality," he said.

"They think 'we'll put ferries on the Derwent and that will save thousands of vehicles'. There's no evidence for that at all.

"All the evidence shows that you can improve public transport services but it has virtually no effect on road traffic.

"That's because people who use cars do so for very good reasons, they have to connect a number of different activities during a limited time budget that they have for the day."

Cotgrove also criticised Metro's bus service.

"We shouldn't forget that Metro gets a subsidy of over $40 million a year and its main business model is to ferry empty seats around Hobart because, you know, there are more empty seats being carried by Metro than there are passengers," he said.

"The Government is speculating, it's sort of saying 'oh let's put on ferries and see what happens'. That's not the way to plan for transport."

Cotgrove said the city will eventually need a western bypass, a notion to which Metro declined to comment, according to the national public news service.


As reported above, Metro chief executive Megan Morse said: "We see public transport as a critical part of the solution to some of the congestion difficulties that Hobart's experienced."

Hobart Lord Mayor Ron Christie added: "for many, many years now we've been talking about a ferry service … and I know there's a very strong community support".

"Anything that can alleviate those 17,000 cars coming into Hobart between 7:00am and 9:00am is going to assist," Alderman Christie said.

Mayor of Clarence, Doug Chipman said the plan "wouldn't be possible unless Metro were a partner in the process".

The service would be welcomed by tourists and visitors to Hobart and hopefully would lead to more bus services throughout the eastern shore, he says.

"We would expect to see Metro bus services coming through Bellerive, so people could make the choice of hopping on the bus and getting on the ferry."

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