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Lower Portland Ferry could cease operations as early as Saturday

Aug 1, 2023

Michael Sainsbury

The future of the Lower Portland Ferry is under a cloud after the operator pulled the pin at the end of its current four year deal on short notice. The decision will mean services will be halted from this Saturday August 5 at this stage.

The Hawkesbury Post understands that the decision took the Hawkesbury City Council management by surprise, despite the four year term of a deal struck in August 2019 which saw the state government tip in $500,000 to keep the ferry running.

“Council received notice from the current operator of the Lower Portland Ferry on 25 July 2023 that they intend to cease operations at the end of the current contract term, being this Saturday 5 August 2023,” HCC General Manager Elizabeth Richardson said.

An abrupt end. The Lower Portland Ferry services will cease on August 5.

“Council has been engaged in positive discussions with the existing ferry operator regarding an extension to the current contract. Council is continuing the discussions this week as well as pursuing all available options to ensure continuity of service for the community,” she sad.

Adding further complications, the Hawkesbury Post has learned that the ferry itself – which has been jointly operated with Hills Council – is due for a major maintenance overhaul and would be pulled out of the water by October on the instructions of its insurers.

“The ferry requires major maintenance overhaul every 3 – 5 years and Council has a current tender in the market for the overhaul of the ferry. Once a contractor is appointed and dates are confirmed, Council will be in a position to communicate further details to the community, “ Ms Richardson said.

It is also unclear if the Hills Council wished to continue its partnership with HCC. In 2019, when the ferry’s future was last clouded in uncertainty, Hills Council was equivocal about its future participation ahead of securing state funding

Hills Council did not respond to questions from the Hawkesbury Post.

The ferry, like the HCC’s sewerage works, is something of an anachronism. Every other council in the Sydney Basin’s sewerage system is run by Sydney Water and HCC has been forced to jack up sewerage rates by 8% for the current financial year,  after a mismanaged repair of a broken pipe that ran saw ratepayers saddled with $35 million in unexpected debt.

Massive council loan to cover sewerage disaster will see rates jump 14% – Hawkesbury Post

Likewise, the operation of the ferry costs council money – mainly on behalf of users who do not live in the Hawkesbury local government areas.

In the 1930’s the ferry was a much smaller vessel.

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