Almost 10 per cent of Auckland ferries cancelled

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Half Moon Bay Fullers ferry. Times file photo Wayne Martin
  • Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter
    Funded by New Zealand on Air

Recent figures from Auckland Transport (AT) shows 9.9 per cent of ferries were cancelled in a single month.

At Auckland Council’s Transport and Infrastructure committee on March 16, AT returned to the committee a month after a request for a report on the reliability of ferry services.

Metro Services group manager Darek Koper looked at the positives of ferry patronage exceeding pre Covid-19 levels.

“Punctuality was at 88.6 per cent and reliability, as we measure through our contracts, at 94.3 per cent…with 9.9 per cent of sailing services cancelled during that last month,” Koper said.

He suggested there were challenges with ageing ferry vessels and said 16 vessels were approaching retirement age.

Cr Chris Darby said he had not been able to board a ferry recently because it reached capacity.

“I knew if I boarded the boat there would be 50 behind me that would not be on the boat and I would prefer to be in that lot rather than being the councillor that got on board,” Darby said.

There are three ferry service operators currently contracted to AT including Fullers, SeaLink and Belaire. Darby wanted to know if performance issues were among all three.

“Staffing issues, they reside with Fullers only and have only ever resided with Fullers to my knowledge. Is that correct?”

Koper responded that smaller operations like SeaLink and Belaire are more punctual but operated on a smaller timetable while Fullers had a higher frequency and was operating across six contracts.

Koper disagreed with Darby’s perspective on staffing issues.

“They are all competing for the same resources in a small industry.”

Darby then told Koper that he was concerned about the way AT communicated with the public when there were hiccups in ferry services.

“I am troubled by getting messages that say due to infrastructure issues or due to mechanical issues [a ferry isn’t operating]. The passenger does not get a sense of what is actually going on here,” Darby said.

He said there was a “sense of frustration” about AT’s communication and they needed to improve a lot more.

Koper responded that they were working to improve announcements and enhancements to the AT app to feed live information through it.

Chair John Watson said ferry services would be an ongoing issue with the Transport and Infrastructure committee.

Koper said to undergo stage two of the Rail Network Rebuild, the Eastern Line has been closed.

“Because of this, customers have chosen to use ferries from Half Moon Bay,” he told the Times.

“Yesterday [March 21], the 7.30am sailing vessel had a capacity of 199 [passengers], but more than 200 arrived and we had reports of up to 35 people left behind.

“While we have requested our ferry operator to use vessels with higher capacity than normally used on this route, this is not always possible.

“This morning [March 22], the operator used a larger vessel, and all passengers were picked up with 230 on board. There were no passengers left behind.

“There are no planned timetable changes to increase service from Half Moon Bay, but we will be deploying new electric ferries from early 2025 with higher capacity and more reliability.”

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