Better connectivity needed for Balmain ferries

Greens MP Jamie Parker spoke in Parliament on August 23, 2012 highlighting the importance of connectivity in the public transport system servicing the Balmain electorate.

Watch Mr Parker's speech here or read the transcript below.

Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [11.57 a.m.]: I welcome the fact that the member for Vaucluse has brought this motion to the House. There are many similarities in the geography of Vaucluse and Balmain: a significant proportion of my electorate is a peninsula which is serviced by only three roads. There are no train stations in the electorate; it relies predominantly on buses and wharves. Particular issues have arisen with bus connectivity and the way the ferry system works on the peninsula, which includes Balmain, Birchgrove, East Balmain and Rozelle. I raised many of these issues in a private member's statement on 30 May 2011. When looking at ferry services and public transport provision the Government needs to take into account a number of issues relating to ferries as a whole, not just the issues raised by the member for Vaucluse.

The first is consultation. One of the great problems we have had in the past is very poor consultation with local government and other stakeholders. A classic example was the removal of Balmain East from the Balmain to Woolwich service, which reduced services in peak periods. This meant that connectivity, in particular between the 441, the 442 and the 445 bus services, was lost. Currently the focus in my electorate is on services between Balmain and the central business district and Darling Harbour. In my view this does not take account of the broad and diverse nature of the community and the physical and social context. Had there been adequate consultation—there is a very high population of people living in social housing—the reduction in services to Elliott Street and Thames Street could have been better dealt with. On the Balmain peninsula there are several social housing blocks, especially around the Mort Bay area, and a significant number of aged, disabled and low-income residents rely on public transport to access essential facilities and services in Balmain and Leichhardt.

Residents depend solely on ferries via wharves at Balmain West and Balmain. While the transfer of Balmain East from the Balmain to Woolwich service to a direct Darling Harbour service has improved accessibility for many central business district commuters, it has compromised accessibility for a number of the most vulnerable residents due to the resultant loss of access to buses from East Balmain wharf. Many residents in the Elliott Street and Thames Street areas are isolated from Balmain by steep street gradients—and I mean steep—that prevent pedestrian access. This necessitates the use of ferries to connect with bus services on Darling Street. The previous Balmain to Woolwich ferry service gave residents access to the 442, 444 and 445 bus services at Balmain East wharf. These buses permitted them to travel to various facilities in the local area. The discontinuation of these services has undermined connectivity between Balmain East and the rest of the community.

That is just a vignette to demonstrate to the Minister for Transport and the department that there are issues around evening peak services, integration, night safety, poor timetabling and morning peak services. I encourage the House to consider strongly the important role that ferries play in public transport and encourage the Minister and the department to contact local councils or members of Parliament to ensure that optimal results are achieved. I conclude by acknowledging the great work of the men and women at the Balmain shipyards in my electorate. I recognise their excellent contribution to our community. Members know that I was not in favour of the privatisation of Sydney Ferries, but I encourage members to seek to improve and augment the process and the organisation of ferries in our community.

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