Some good news for Ferry users with a number of improvements on the way.

New Waiheke Ferries

Fullers are spending $16 million to build two new 360 seat vessels for use on the run to Waiheke. The design will be based on the Te Kotuku which launched just over a year ago and incorporate modifications based on staff and passenger feedback. Combined Fullers say that the three vessels provide standardised and therefore a more consistent level of service. The two new vessels will replace the Jet Raider which is used as a backup and eventually the Quickcat.

Te Kotuku

Like the Te Kotuku the two new vessels will be built at the Q-West boat builders in Wanganui and are expected to launch in October 2016 and April 2017.

I’m guessing these new vessels are in part to the competition being put on Fullers from Explore Ferries which started running services to Waiheke last year.

More Services to Beachlands

Sealink which operates the ferries to Pine Harbour are currently building a new vessel also at Q-West called the Clipper V – it appears to be an almost identical design to the Clipper IV which is already used on this route.

Clipper IV

AT want to use its introduction to increase the number of services to and from the city. They’ve published a proposed new timetable and are seeking feedback from users on itFrom what I can see the key changes include a shift to 20 minute frequency services in the morning and afternoon peak from what is mostly 30 minute services. There are also some new evening services on Friday and Saturday nights. Increasing the frequency, capacity and span of service can only be a good thing for patronage and ferry patronage has been growing well recently with annual figures up over 10% on this time last year. Below is a sample of the proposed timetable which they currently anticipate will be implemented in January.

Proposed Pine Harbour Timetable for Jan 16

AT are also looking at how to better connect buses through Beachlands and Maraetai and they are also seeking initial feedback on that with a second consultation happening at a later stage.

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  1. Good news all-round. Hopefully Fullers retires the Tomb-raider as passengers tend to avoid it like the plague where possible.
    Gulf Harbour is also increasing too.
    I wonder if Devonport might be better served by 2x smaller, faster ferries rather than the old Kea?
    Time to get on with a wharf and ferry service to Browns Bay!

    1. I agree. Our inner harbour ferries seem oversized for the job. Biiiig boats with four or more staff on board, big thousand horsepower engines burning through diesel…. to do the job of a bus, effectively.

      What if we had smaller “sea-buses” run by one or two staff, with small engines that burn fuel at a quarter the rate, each carrying only a hundred or so people at max. I suppose they would be like those clippers!

      But yes, two smaller double enders running every fifteen minutes, instead of one big one every half hour.

    2. Having not travelled on it since the mid 1990s, could you elaborate on what the issue is with the Jet Raider? Is it age? Monohull? Fit out?

      1. Jetraider is really unstable for starters, catch that on a rough day and half the passengers are vomiting by the time they get to Waiheke.

    3. No, the time isn’t in the cruise speed of the ferry but in turnaround at the dock. Kea is perfectly suited to its job because the double end means no time lost in turning around. It makes the crossing in ten or eleven minutes. It’s hard to see another ferry doing better especially since no-wake zones apply to all ferries. If you would settle for two Keas, I’d go for that.

    1. If by game changer you mean not doing much for patronage while also increasing costs considerably then yes I’d agree. Hard to get strong useage when the bus alternative is quicker, cheaper and more frequent thanks to things like the busway.

    2. Murrays Bay wharf isn’t suitable for ferry and Murrays Bay is close to Constellation anyway.
      Milford is close enough to Takapuna and isn’t particularly high density. Also distance-wise it isn’t too far to the city, same for Takapuna.
      The reason why Devonport etc work is that the ferry is faster. Browns Bay to the City would also be faster on the ferry during peak times and only a bit slower off-peak. Browns Bay would also feed the Gulf Harbour service.
      Eventually if Takapuna becomes a larger employment hub (and more apartments) then it might just justify a service.

    3. Browns Bay to downtown is almost exactly the same distance by sea as the Waiheke ferry, so point to point you could expect it to be 40 minutes or so.

      But ferries are very slow to dock and let people on and off. If you stopped at Murrays Bay, Milford and Takapuna you could be adding up to ten minutes per stop to slowly approach the wharves, dock, put the gangways down, let passengers on and off, etc.

      You’d be looking at over an hour on the browntown run.

          1. Considering Gulf Harbour – City takes just under an hour and Browns Bay is just slightly under half way (when you include the slower speeds in the harbour) then it should take about 40 mins so faster than a bus (bus is closer to 50 mins during peak), avoiding changing at Albany and more pleasant (except in rough weather).

          2. I would like to know what map it is ‘half way’ there on. In terms of sailing distance at least 70%, not to mention that at least 5 minutes of any trip is docking/undocking so probably 45 at best.

          3. slightly under half way from Gulf Harbour… so slightly more than half way from the opposite direction.
            70% is pushing it… more like 60%.

  2. This is a great move. Next, ferry fares need to go down. They are very expensive and that does not help attract more users. Whats the point of higher frequency if getting to and out of the city is way cheaper and faster to drive. Also ferry needs to be integrated along with Bus and Trains.

    1. You’re right of course Ben, but integrated fares are supposedly on the way which make fares equal whether by ferry, train, bus, or any combination of the three. You’ll still be stuck with having to make connections, but making the cost fair for all will still enable more Aucklanders to use more public transport.

      Unfortunately AT disappointed with the initial version of the proposal a few months back by forgetting about ferries, but they received so much negative feedback that they will surely do the job properly when the next version is released (around New Year I think?). I’m optimistic that they will get it right this time, but be ready to harass your MP and councillors just in case it gets mucked up again!

      1. AT didn’t ‘forget’ about the ferries. National passed legislation at Fullers’ behest which means they’re exempt from having to participate in the whole integrated fares system. Blame National not AT for the ongoing mess that is anything PT-related in Auckland.

  3. It would be good to see purpose built inner harbour ferries (double ended that are quck as well) that don’t have to lose so much time turning around, especially at Northcote. A better wharf there would fix a lot of problems having said that.

    1. That is the advantage of smaller ferries… they are quick to turn around. Double-ended is for larger vessels. They are slower, use more fuel and the time-saved from not turning around wouldn’t matter on a smaller boat.

  4. Really happy to see Pine Harbour ferries running on the weekends! The only reason I need a car is to get out of town and services like this provide a nice alternative.

  5. Offer the St Heliers heritage campaigners a sop and build a huge wharf again 😀 – I’m only partially kidding on this one.

    Nice to see some decent hours for Pine Harbour, but one more later run would have been ideal. I’d love to move out to Beachlands and leave my car in the garage.

    1. Is St Helliers an option? Or is the bus quicker?

      I would imagine that would be a very popular route for commuters and tourists alike.

      1. Not really. Like most of these (Takapuna, Browns Bay, Milford), you need a wharf perhaps half a kilometre long, then you have almost nobody within walking distance, no desire to pave over your beach to build expansive park n ride, andyou are left with relying on bus connections… so why not just take the bus the whole way.

        I could see it perhaps as a touristy fun thing, but not very effective for proper transport and very expensive.

        1. Exactly, the water dept at St Heliers is just too shallow, you’d have to go hundreds of metres out. It’s a shame.

  6. I think analysis has shown that we don’t really have any more new ferry routes (combination of geographical constraints (water depth) or the existing PT options being quicker).

    However I will propose (again) my wanting for a harbor ring-route, in both directions 😉

    Regardless, additional frequencies on current routes a great thing. Having bustling ferry services criss-crossing the harbor is a great sight. Auckland is lucky to have it.

  7. Increased frequencies would be great; as an example the half moon bay ferry offers a fast 30 minute service to downtown, but the gaps during the middle of the day make it of limited value. They move large numbers of people quickly though.

    The harbour is a great transport resource, we need to make better use of it

  8. On the points being made comparing journey times on ferry and bus, I think there are certain intangibles that come into play. For many people a ferry is quite an attractive way to travel (in good weather at least), so even if it is slightly slower than bus, it is likely to attract custom, especially if there is no fare penalty. I think of my own experience in Brisbane, where I would make the CityCat a regular part of my journey, even though taking two buses, rather than the bus and ferry, would generally have been faster. The zonal fare system meant I would pay the same either way, and the ferry was a pleasant way to end the day and arrive home already feeling relaxed.

    1. The most uncomfortable trips I take are on buses not ferries even on rough days. The reality is that there is not many really bad ferry crossings but all buses stop, start and change direction …. ferries tend to be point to point and much smoother.

    2. yeah but when public funding is limited I just don’t see much reasons to, for example, build wharves at Brown’s Bay simply to get people off the from bus to ferry.

      As Nic notes above the best strategy for Auckland’s ferries is to simply increase frequency on the routes we have, and improve bus connections to the terminals. Ala New Network. Smaller ferries could help here, if they’re cost effective …

      1. Browns Bay would assist the Gulf Harbour service by building it’s critical mass to enable higher frequency and would help to relieve Whangaparaoa Road of some of it’s traffic (people driving from the peninsular down to Browns Bay/Torbay etc.
        Browns Bay is a medium-high density sea-side town centre (that is zoned for further apartments etc). A ferry service would very much fall into the category of liveable city and would be used (likely freeing up some carparks at Albany and Constellation Park n rides).

  9. No mention has been made of the 2? new boats Explore are getting.The first one is to appear before Christmas.
    On the topic of smaller boats vs large It was commented before the Quickcat was purchased two smaller boats would serve better than one large one. There are advantages such as if there is a breakdown (not unknown with Fullers) it will only remove half of the capacity instead of all of it and in periods of high demand a shuttle of two, or more, smaller boats will move passengers quicker than waiting for the one large boat to return. These points have, it seems, taken 25 years and competition for Fullers to figure it out.

      1. I was referring to Waiheke when I said smaller boats ie. smaller than Jet Raider, Quickcat & Superflyte.
        As for Great Barrier there is no regular Fullers sailings at all except possibly holiday weekends. The regular Great Barrier is service is by Sealink car ferries only as far as I am aware.

  10. Great stuff! Hopefuly Beachlands gets a much needed improvement to its bus service too, There are 3+ hour gaps in the timetables between some services, has to be one of the worst levels of service bar Tuakau and the *current* Waiuku service.

  11. As a regular user of the Birkenhead ferry with a bike, i really like it when the route is served by the smaller boats, Tiger Cat especially and Harbour Cat also (although that vessel is far noisier and doesn’t have such good protection over the rear deck). Although these boats are small, the large rear decks makes it easy for cyclists to stay out of the way of other passengers, and they are quick to dock/un-dock compared to the larger boats.

    Space for bikes on the larger boats is sadly lacking. I think this should be a design consideration for any new ferries, especially on the Upper Harbour and Devenport routes where bikes on the ferries will likely continue even after the SkyPath is built.

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