Bigger, more reliable boats and more sailings are sought on an over-crowded Gulf Harbour to Auckland ferry service.
Passengers are joining together collectively and asking providers 360 Discovery and Auckland Transport via email to make it a priority as the service nears capacity.
In the emails, the commuters say the ferries are becoming over-crowded with only the vessel TiriKat accommodating the numbers.
Even on the second largest ferry, D1, there is standing room only.
Passengers have no option but to sit outside on deck, exposed to the elements, or stand where space allows on deck or in the cabin.
This isn’t a problem as long as the weather is fair, they say.
But once the service hits rain or any reasonable sized swells it could become a health and safety issue.
Passengers believe they should not be expected to spend 50 to 70 minutes standing against swells or sitting in the rain and spray of waves and have to pay for the experience.
The ferries have experienced a number of breakdowns and mechanical issues and passengers believe it is only a matter of time before they are involved in an incident at sea.
Last year, the number of daily trips was extended following a successful campaign by Gulf Harbour residents, championed by Fairway Bay developers who helped subsidise the service with an undisclosed amount, Fairway Bay spokesman Michael Webb-Speight says.
The improved service is proving to be something of a victim of its own success, he says – passenger numbers have more than doubled in about six months.
‘‘March figures due out shortly [are] expected to be a further significant increase,’’ he says.
Auckland Transport has been inundated with emails, dozens of ferry users making their views known on what has quickly become a busy ferry run.
‘‘With winter approaching, however, the issue will become more urgent. You simply can’t ask people to stand outside in the rain for 45 minutes on their way to town.’’ Recent breakdowns and incidents have also exacerbated the situation, he says.
Webb-Speight says all are committed to solving the capacity issues, but that passenger growth has far exceeded expectations.
Fairway Bay, Auckland Transport and 360 Discovery will discuss the issue tomorrow. Auckland Transport and 360 Discovery say patronage has risen more than 115 per cent and they are working to address capacity issues.
As an immediate measure, the Discovery 3 is being replaced with larger Fullers vessel Tiger Cat and other vessels are being assessed for their suitability.
By Jay Boreham
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