BITS MANAGER EXPLAINS PASSENGER FERRY TIMETABLES
The Friendly Bay Islander has received a number of queries from islanders about perceived anomalies in the island passenger ferry service schedule.
Comment has been made that the service could need some adjusting in relation to gaps and in recognition of recent island growth.
Early afternoons seem to be a problem for many, particularly a long break to get to Karragarra direct; and big breaks to get back from Russell Island to Lamb, Macleay and Karra between 1 and 3pm.
The growth in island population is seeing morning ferries on weekends offering standing room only on some occasions.
The 10.10 last ferry on Sundays has also been questioned for a later return due to weekend and Sunday functions.
Many islanders have to organise Sunday night stay overs when caught out.
Cr Mark Edwards has also advised that he has had a number of enquiries in relation to island passenger ferry service timetable.
We asked Bay Island Transport manager Deb Wilson if there are any plans for future timetable adjustments?
If so, does Translink decide or Bay Island Transport Systems?
She replied that BITs and Translink work in conjunction with the development of the timetable.
“The current contractual arrangement with Translink is for BITS to operate x number of services a day.
“From Translink's perspective they look at a few key factors; connectivity with other modes of transport and viability (subsidy level vs fare revenue).
“From BITS perspective we look at community needs and where capacity is required - it is a mammoth task to make all these factors work.”
Deb Wilson added that if BITS wished to increase services; they must make application to Translink, providing supporting evidence to justify the increase.
Not all requests for change are agreed to by Translink.
She explained that the last application she made for increases was not approved (which was prior to the most recent timetable change) due to lack of supporting statistics.
“Our numbers did not justify more services being required according to Translink,” the BITS manager stated.
She added: “Across our entire services BITs operates at about 30% of capacity. Most months we show no growth, and sometimes negative growth from 2016.
“So far this month, November has been busy and does show an increase in passenger trips.”
There is also another issue.
On a few services a day the passenger ferry crew have to ask people to take the next ferry due to freight excesses.
Deb Wilson further explained: “We may only carry 140 passengers on a 200 passenger ferry because the freight has exceeded the weight allocation of the passengers.
“We are working towards reducing freight and increasing passenger numbers because freight skews the numbers from a statistical perspective.”
In relation to the last 10.10 service on Sundays she justified the timetable by stating: “For the entire month of October we only carried 20 people on the 10.10 pm service. It would be very hard to justify a later service.”
The BITS manager stated that: “It is impossible to please everyone - we make decisions based on what we perceive to be the best outcome for all four islands.
“Consideration must be given to school children, bus connections, a raft of requests from square dancers to yoga and market attenders.
“We also have to consider breaks for staff, fuelling times and shift lengths.
In conclusion she said: “At this stage I do not have a timetable review in the pipeline; however, it is a process I do about every six months, and/or in response to community feedback.
“Our state government member should be able to give you a better insight into Translink' s side of the equation,” Deb Wilson added.
• Deb Wilson