Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some recent ferry news

First the good news (but it will never happen here): Isle of Wight ferry cuts fares for NHS patient travel.
Ferry passengers are to get reduced fares on services to and from the Isle of Wight if travelling to the mainland for hospital treatment.
Foot and car passengers will receive a 50% discount on routes between Fishbourne and Portsmouth, Ryde and Portsmouth and Yarmouth and Lymington.
The reduced fare will also apply to one person travelling with the patient, or two parents if the patient is a child.
The scheme, funded by ferry firm Wightlink, starts on 21 June.
Russell Kew, Wightlink's chief executive, said: "We recognise that we are an important lifeline for islanders.
For some scary news (and don't count on it will never happen here): What if ferry fares doubled?
When B.C. Ferries doubled fares in 1976 after sailing along at $5 per vehicle and $2 per passenger since the its launch in 1960 exactly 50 years ago today ridership plunged by more than 1.5 million passengers and 700,000 vehicles the next year.
What if the fares doubled again?
No biggie, according to the B.C. Ferries Corporation.
An 'elasticity analysis' it undertook in 2009 showed that a 100 per cent increase would produce only a five per cent drop in ridership on the major routes and a one per cent drop system-wide, Deborah Marshall, director of Media Relations, said in an e-mail. More likely, a 10 per cent increase in major route fares would produce a 0.5 per cent drop. "This was not a survey," she says. "It was based on our actual data over the past ten years. We measured changes in price versus ridership numbers."
But some, of course, have not a care in the world:
The man who controls New Zealand's Fullers Ferries - Stagecoach founder Brian Souter - has made a personal investment of $20.2 million in an English luxury motor yacht manufacturer, Sunseeker International.
Mr Souter's Stagecoach New Zealand bought into Fullers in 1998, and last year the company was taken over by Souter Holdings, which owns a number of other transport operations including urban bus operators Howick and Eastern Buses in Auckland and 74% of Mana Coachlines in Wellington, and Auckland ferry operator 360 Discovery Ltd.
Now the Scottish entrepreneur is investing heavily in British manufacturing.
Nice to know and see where our overcharged fares are going. But sitting on the Jet Raider this morning because the Quickcat is clapped out for "unplanned maintenance" I'm not holding my breath those British boat manufacturers will turn out a new ferry for us soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

C4FFF reaction to the Select Committee Report

Press release: C4FFF Disputes Findings of the Transport & Industrial Relations Committee

A report from the Transport & Industrial Relations Committee, which responds to the Campaign for Fair Ferry Fares petition (presented 2 July 2009) for an affordable and sustainable public transport system for Waiheke Island, has been criticised by C4FFF as failing to deal properly with the issues raised by the group, and the nearly 1000 people who signed it.
The original petition, signed by 941 people, was referred to the committee on 2 July 2009. The committee also invited and received submissions from the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) and Fullers Groups.

C4FFF said that report was 'disappointing', and that the real concern had not been addressed – that, given the fact there is no alternative route to the city, there is still no recognition of the need to regulate the fare structure and consult with the community board and users. "We are requesting a statutory mechanism of consultation, and this has not been addressed."
"The current situation still means that they can hike the price at any time. This will affect an already cash-strapped population that finds the cost of travel to the city a huge burden. And let's not forget we are a 7 decile area – the wealthy are a minority here, and any increase in fares has a huge impact on the lives of residents. By way of comparison, Half Moon Bay is a decile 1 area and is subsidised. Where is the logic in that?’

C4FFF also disputed ARTA's conclusion that the bus fares were "far lower than they should be". It is very hard not be cynical when we need to take the word of government bodies on the true costs of services (rubbish springs to mind). We provided figures on the comparative costs of ferries and that it would be great to see the comparative costs of buses in Auckland and Waiheke, rather than an emotive statement that it costs a lot!, particularly as the buses are key to Waiheke's tourist infrastructure.
C4FFF had worked out an approximate comparison as follows: "A $410,000 a year subsidy is just over $1,000 a day for a service that covers an area the size of most of mainland Auckland City. For example, a ticket from Britomart to Sandringham (22min ride) is comparable to Matiatia to Onetangi, and costs $3.30 compared to $4.10 on Waiheke."
Many buses were currently travelling at capacity with Gold Card users, with locals often standing – but increased revenue for the bus company hasn’t resulted in any improvements in the service for locals in terms of frequency or access to remote areas.

C4FFF also believes the committee did not address the implications of Fullers' ownership of the pontoons where its ferries dock at the downtown Auckland and Devonport wharves. These are placed on the only access to the dock, which means, in effect, Fullers can deny use to other potential providers. The pontoons should be classified as "infrastructure" and should be under public jurisdiction, even if they have been paid for by the ferry company.

C4FFF saw the petition to the Transport Committee as a success as it made people aware that fare prices are arbitrary and over-inflated, and encouraged the community to question the cost of travel into the CBD and how fares are set. It is up to all ferry users to continue to remain vigilant in order to protest further price hikes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Parliament's Transport Select Committee recommendation

Last year C4FFF presented a petition to parliament regarding the Waiheke to Auckland ferry service.
Now Parliament's Transport Select Committee has recommended that the House take note of the report:

The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has considered Petition 2008/24 of Cathy Urquhart, Brent McDonald, and Shirin Brown, requesting that “the House of Representatives note that 941 people have signed a petition calling for the following:
· A mechanism of accountability to be put in place so that Fullers cannot raise our ferry and bus fares without consulting ARTA or the governing transport authority and the community of Waiheke
· Regulation or fair competition on the Fullers ferry route
· Affordable and sustainable public transport for Waiheke for the future.”

A mechanism of accountability
The ferry service provided by Fullers between downtown Auckland and Waiheke Island is registered with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) as a commercial public transport service as required under the Passenger Transport Management Act 2009. A registered service under the Act must provide to regional councils information on routes, timetables, and fares. Fullers must formally notify ARTA of any variation to any aspect of its services, including its fares.
ARTA said that it has limited grounds for denying a fare variation on a commercial service, such as that operated by Fullers. It could do so only if the service in question unduly affected a contracted public transport service in Auckland, or was in breach of a control placed on it by ARTA. ARTA said that, as there are no contracted public transport services to Waiheke Island, these reasons did not apply in this case. Fullers’ management meets representatives of the Waiheke Island community monthly, through its Ferry Users Group. The rationale for any fare change is discussed with this group.

Regulation or fair competition
Other ferry operators have provided competition on the Waiheke route in the past. Under ARTA’s Ferry Development Plan all infrastructure is required to be in public ownership to allow open access to wharves, subject to budget and commercial constraints such as lease arrangements. Auckland City Council owns all of the Waiheke ferry wharf infrastructure, which would therefore be open to access by other operators, but Fullers owns the pontoons where its ferries dock at the downtown Auckland and Devonport wharves.

Affordable and sustainable public transport
ARTA said that it subsidises the Waiheke bus service at about $410,000 per year; and it considers that Waiheke fares are especially low, far lower than they should be for the level of public transport service provided. The New Zealand Transport Agency suggests that since the current service provided by Fullers has existed for some years it appears to be sustainable. If the commercial operator notified ARTA that the service was to be discontinued, ARTA would need to consider whether a new commercial operator could register a service, or whether a contracted service was viable. ARTA has no plans at present to contract a service to Waiheke, and explained that the commercial service provided by Fullers offers a good service that appears to meet the primary needs of the market. However, ARTA said it could review its position if this were to change.

We are satisfied with the explanations we have received regarding this petition, and have no other matters to bring to the attention of the House.

Committee procedure
The petition was referred to the committee on 2 July 2009. The committee invited and received submissions from the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Fullers Group, and the Campaign 4 Fair Ferry Fares.

Committee members
David Bennett (Chairperson)
Dr Jackie Blue
Carol Beaumont
Darien Fenton
Hon Tau Henare
Gareth Hughes (from 17 February 2010)
Moana Mackey
Allan Peachey
Michael Woodhouse