The Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) recently released a discussion paper on a ferry service for Melbourne, fulfilling one of the Victorian Government pre-election promises.  The study is underpinned by the rapid population growth occurring in Melbourne’s west and the need to investigate additional transport modes to cater for those who travel into the city for work.  A large percentage of employed residents in the west travel into the CBD for work; this is most apparent in the suburb of Point Cook, where approximately 29 per cent of journeys to work are to the CBD compared with the Melbourne metropolitan average of 17 per cent.  The paper claims that a ferry service will assist in supporting the growth of the western suburbs as well as Melbourne’s tourism industry.  Potential ferry locations have been identified for Wyndham, Hobsons Bay, Greater Geelong and Docklands.

Despite the benefits of providing an additional transport mode for commuters, there are a number of limitations which will reduce the feasibility of a ferry service.  These issues include the following:

  • ferries will need to be managed around shipping movements and recreational users of Port Phillip Bay, the Yarra River and Maribyrnong River;
  • Melbourne’s weather is incredibly variable and may impact on punctuality and service provision as well as passenger comfort;
  • speed limits in force in the Bay and along both Rivers will affect severely journey times;
  • in order to provide a frequent and reliable service, approximately seven to eight vessels will be required;
  • the cost of a ticket for the ferry is likely to be higher than the cost of other forms of public transport;
  • there is a lack of parking available at most of the proposed ferry service locations and as most ferry locations have limited walkable catchments, park and ride facilities or frequent bus services will be needed to encourage use of ferry services.

Based on current speed limits, the discussion paper outlines the expected travel times for ferry services between Port Arlington and Docklands (85 to 110 minutes) and Wyndham and Docklands (65 minutes).  This time does not include the access time to the ferry and egress time to the end destination which could add up to 30 minutes to journey times. As car travel times from Point Cook to the CBD average between 50 to 70 minutes, and train journeys between Geelong and the CBD take approximately 60 minutes, the ferry does not appear to be an attractive alternative.

The Discussion Paper acknowledges the need to reduce journey times to increase the attractiveness of this transport mode.  A reduction in travel times by 10 to 15 minutes would require a significant change to travel speeds.  Higher speeds along the Rivers however, may create safety concerns and cause the erosion of the River banks.


The next steps in the ferry study include further economic and commercial feasibility studies to determine the viability of a ferry service and to establish whether ferries could be marketed as an attractive alternative to other modes of transport for those commuting to the CBD from the west.

The full discussion paper can be viewed at: