February 4 - 10, 2024: Issue 612


Ferry + light rail service boost: freshwater Ferries to run every hour permanently

MV Freshwater and Photo; Bentriceratops  

Ferry passengers will now enjoy more trips on the iconic Freshwater vessels and extra services on the Parramatta River, with the NSW Government delivering an additional 60 services across the F1 and F3 routes during the week and another 36 on weekends, the government announced on Monday January 30, 2024.

Freshwater Class vessels will be permanently uplifted from operating every 2 hours to hourly, increasing from 5 services a day to 10, on weekdays and weekends.

As Sydney’s most popular ferry route, with vessels that can carry up to 1100 passengers, this is a major boost for passengers and a win for our city – doubling the options for a trip across the harbour.

The first services from Circular Quay will depart at 9:50am with the first service from Manly taking off at 10:30am. The last service departing Circular Quay will be at 6:50pm and the last from Manly departing 7:30pm.

An extra 7 services will operate on the F3 Parramatta River route each weekday and an extra 26 on the weekend.

Those heading to events on Sundays will also have more options and shorter wait times, with 8 trips that currently terminate and Meadowbank and Barangaroo now extending all the way to Sydney Olympic Park and Circular Quay.

On the busy L1 Inner West Light Rail, passengers will enjoy a more frequent timetable, as extra services join the weekday peak.

The new timetable will increase passenger capacity by 33% during peak times and see more frequent services on Friday nights when people are out and about.

These extra services are as a result of the new Urbos 100 light rail vehicles hitting the tracks, increasing the L1 fleet from 12 to 16.

For more information, visit Transport NSW info: transportnsw.info

Minister for Transport Jo Haylen said:

“Adding extra services to key routes in Sydney will support the return to work and school, increasing capacity and decreasing wait times for thousands of commuters.

“We know the community wants more frequent trips along the Parramatta River, particularly on weekends and for major events, while our beautiful Freshwater Class ferries have never been more popular.

“Ferries are one of Sydney’s most beloved forms of public transport, so this is great news for our city – both in our West and between Manly and Circular Quay.

“We went to the election promising more ferry services at Drummoyne Wharf – and that’s exactly what I’m delivering now.

“Extra light rail services will make a big difference for those in the Inner West by cutting wait times and increasing capacity, with more than 200 extra services a week.”

Transport for NSW Coordinator General Howard Collins said:

“Extra services on the popular F1 and F3 routes is a major boost to those who are taking a ferry to work, to school or to events around Sydney.

“The uplift to a 6-minute frequency for the L1 Light Rail will be a huge benefit to those travelling through the Inner West to the business hubs of Pyrmont, Ultimo, Haymarket and the CBD.

“I want to thank our operators for working with us to provide more services that cut wait times and allow passengers to simply turn up and go.”


On  Tuesday June 6th 2023 NSW Premier Chris Minns and NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen announced the state government would be retaining three of the four popular ‘Freshwater' class ferries; MV Freshwater, MV Queenscliff and MV Narrabeen, for long-term service.

The MV Collaroy, which requires different parts that aren't as easy to come by as the other 3, has yet to be confirmed as coming back to her old route.

The current Labor Government stated that the former government planned to retain just one Freshwater-class ferry in service, running weekend services only. 

Further, the newly elected Minns Government stated the second-generation Emerald-class ferries, ordered by the former government to replace the Freshwaters, have been plagued by operational issues, including cracked hulls and being unable to dock at low-tide.  

''Labor is now delivering on its long-term promise to return as many of the Freshwater-class vessels as possible to weekday and weekend services on the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route.'' an issued statement reads

The 40 years old beloved Queenscliff is currently docked at Cockatoo Island undergoing important restoration work, including upgrading engines and machinery. The upgrade has also refreshed passenger areas and will improve the experience for customers with a disability. The extensive refurbishment has involved expert navel engineers, electrical engineers, shipbuilders, painters, plumbers and more all working here in NSW.  

The refurbishment includes:  

  • More than 650 square metres of new ceiling panels,  
  • More than 7kms of new cabling, 
  • More than 4,000 litres of paint 
  • More than 750 square meters of new flooring  
  • Every interior seat re-covered 

The engine room is bigger than a basketball court and the main engine is 32 times more powerful than an average car. The Queenscliff was planned to return to the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route this summer and will join the Freshwater in ferrying passengers every day. The final works, reinstalling oil distribution boxes, require dry-docking the Queenscliff at Garden Island and is subject to the Australian Navy’s maintenance schedule.  

The MV Queenscliff subsequently undertook her sea trails on November 7, 2023.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said last year: 

“The previous Government’s plan to retire the Freshwater ferries was reckless.  We’re reversing their decision and returning the iconic Freshwaters to Sydney Harbour.”  

NSW Minister for Transport Jo Haylen stated, 

“These vessels are beloved and reliable, and it is exciting we are in the final stretch in getting the Queenscliff back on the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route. They are not only a great option for everyday commuters and tourists looking for an iconic trip across the harbour but can also carry around 1,000 passengers per trip. 

“We are standing by our election commitments with passengers set to be enjoying the upgraded ferry this summer. 

“We know the Australian-made Freshwaters are steeped in NSW history and we are doing all we can to ensure they remain part of our iconic harbour scenery.” 

A/Chief Operations Officer Mark Hutchings said,

“A huge body of work has gone into refurbishing the Queenscliff to provide passengers with a better experience across the Sydney Harbour. It isn’t just new seats and fresh paint but a major upgrade to the engines and machinery of the vessel. 

“We know the ferries are a popular choice for commuters during the hotter months and it is great that the Queenscliff will be back on the harbour in this summer.”

Although many look forward to travelling once more on these iconic vessels, it is the MV Narrabeen those a little further north on the peninsula are hoping to see plying her old paths again soon.

The name 'Narrabeen' has not been the only attached to Manly Ferries - many a suburban beach of the peninsula has been paid tribute through a vessel named for it on the Manly run - Dee Why, Curl Curl, Fairlight, Freshwater, Barranjoey - but it is 'Narrabeen' that has recurred.

The first ferry named 'Narrabeen' was a paddle steamer that was built in 1886 by Mort's Dock and Engineering for the Port Jackson Steamship Company, she was an iron-hulled vessel, Narrabeen was 48.8 metres (160 ft 1 in) long, 239 tons (211 tons from 1911) and could carry up to 850 passengers, although, when launched, reports stated her capacity was 700 - her 'trail' took place on a Tuesday with a run from Morts' down to Manly:


Yesterday the new steamship Narrabeen, built for the Port Jackson Steamship Company by Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, was taken for a run down the harbour to test her machinery and to enable the builders to formally hand over the ship to her owners. Among the gentlemen present were Captain Broomfield (chairman), Mr. J. P. Franki (manager), Mr. S. Briggs (assistant manager), and Mr. T. Ferguson, Mort's Dock and Engineering Company ; Captain Haselton (chairman), Messrs. Gilles, J. Wood, Taylor, M'Clements (directors), Mr. J. Chounding (manager), Mr. L. Ogilby (secretary), Mr. J. Oliffe (superintending engineer), Port Jackson Steamship Company ; Mr. W. Cruickshank, Government engineer surveyor ; Mr. Henry Seife, Government engineer surveyor ; Mr. R. Pollock, superintending engineer Bulli Coal-mining Company; Mr. Peter Hunter, superintending engineer Newcastle Steamship Company; Captain Webb, Captain Summerbell, manager North Shore Ferry Company; Mr. P. Curtis, Mr. Lawrence, and others. The Narrabeen cast off from the jetty at the Circular Quay about a quarter to 11, and steamed down the harbour as far us the Heads and back again, doing the measured mile at the rate of 11.4 knots an hour. When returning to the Cove she met the Brighton, and had a spin with her from Fort Denison right down to Manly pier. At first it seemed as if the larger boat would give the Narrabeen a beating, but after they had got fairly underway, the Narrabeen went away, and kept a good lead all the way to Manly, the performance being regarded as in every way a most satisfactory one. The vessel having been safely moored, an adjournment was made to the forward saloon, where refreshments had been served previously.

Mr. LAWRENCE, after calling upon the company to charge their glasses, said that he had very great pleasure in asking them to drink " Success to the Narrabeen."  He might not be known to them all, but he was an old resident of Manly, mid took a great interest in the place ; and he could say that the success of Manly was attributable wholly and solely to the energetic spirit displayed by the Port Jackson Steamship Company-(hear, hear)-who had placed such fine steamers on the line. The boats had made the place, and not the place the boats. (Hear, hear.) In the old days they had the Phantom, to make a passage in which was at times a perilous undertaking; then came the Breadalbane and others, and after them a better class of boats, viz., the Fairlight and Brighton, than which he supposed there were not any superior south of the line. (Hear, hear.) Now the directors had crowned the whole thing with that fine boat, and had thus been the means of giving encouragement to local industry. (Applause,) They commenced by going to New Zealand, and now they had come right home, where they had obtained a boat with which he was most agreeably surprised, and which he was sure the residents of Manly should feel greatly indebted to the company for providing them with.

Captain HESELTON, in responding, said the directors did not go to New Zealand for a steamer until they had tried all they could to got it built here for what they regarded as a fair price. They, had, however, determined to have the present vessel built in Sydney, and from what they saw there was every reason to be satisfied with that decision, us the Narrabeen would compare for speed and workmanship with any boat of her kind, (Hear, hear.) He was confident she would do a great deal better when the stiffness had worn off her machinery. He spoke in terms of praise of Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, who find done all they possibly could to turn out the Narrabeen a first-class job. He knew that they had had a great deal to contend with, but in spite of this they had met his wishes and suggestions in the best possible spirit. He did not think the Manly Beach residents or the travelling public could find fault with the company for not keeping pace with the times. (Hear, hear.) They had not been in the company eight years, and yet they had built five large steamers, which he thought was keeping ahead of the times. (Hear, hear.) He did not think any place in the southern hemi-sphere was so well served in the matter of steam communication as Manly Beach. He did not think the steamers ever missed a trip, and the Mayor and aldermen regulated the time-table so as to meet the wishes of the public. Now that the company had more boats, it was intended to run more frequently between the two places. With regard to what Mr. Lawrence had said of the Phantom, he might tell them that his friend Captain. Webb superintended the building of that vessel, and after-wards commanded her while she wat running on the Yarra ; and he (Captain Heselton) was with him as mate. The Phantom was a very great success; but what surprised them was that the Manly Beach people put up With her so long. (Laughter.) He concluded by saying that the Manly Beach trade had been a success to everyone that touched it, and he had no doubt it would continuo to be profitable. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. JOHN WOODS proposed " Success to Mort's Dock and Engineering Company," and in doing so said he thought the Narrabeen had proved beyond all doubt that we bad brains enough in the colony to turn out mechanisms equal to any in the world it we had proper encouragement. (Applause.) The industries of the colony were languishing for lack of support, and he wished, from the bottom of his heart, that the people generally would take a greater interest in them. Mort's Dock and Engineering Company had performed their work in the Narrabeen very satisfactorily, and he hoped the vessel would be the means of bringing additional interest to bear upon colonial industries. He paid a tribute to the late Mr. T. S. Mort, who had done more than any other man to foster colonial industries-(hear, hear)-and concluded by asseverating that it would be far bettor to keep money in the country for such work as the Narrabeen than to pay it away for the benefit of mechanics in the old country. ('Hear, hear.)

Captain BROOMFIELD, in replying, said that the trial trip of the Narrabeen had given him a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. That boat was undertaken by the company without any idea of making money out of the job ; they were anxious to show the public that the capabilities of the firm wore quite equal to the requirements of the present day. (Hear, hear.) The Narrabeen was a good, strong, plain, faithful, end substantial job, and he had no doubt she would maintain the reputation of Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, as all the other boats had done. They might be a little high in their prices, but when a job left their place it was well done. (Cheers.)

Mr. FRANKI also responded.

After the speeches were concluded, the Narrabeen cast off from the Manly pier and steamed back to Sydney. The weather was fresh and cool, and the outing proved very enjoyable.

The principal dimensions of the Narrabeen are;- Length over all, 160 feet; beam, 22 feet; depth, 10.6; extreme width over paddle-boxes, 40 feet. The engines, which were designed by Mr. Auldjo, chief draughtsman at the dock, are compound-diagonal surface-condensing, the high pressure cylinder being 21 inches in diameter, low pressure 40 inches in diameter, and the stroke 5 feet, with separate air and circulating pumps. The engines will indicate to 450 horse power. There are two boilers of the navy type, made for a working pressure of 100lb per square inch. They are 19 feet long, 8 feet diameter, with two of Fox's patent corrugated furnaces, 3 feet diameter in each. The paddle-wheels are 15.6 diameter, with 8 feathering floats on each. The Narrabeen will carry about 700 passengers.  TRIAL TRIP OF THE STEAMSHIP NARRABEEN. (1886, December 22 - Wednesday). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13623336

Narrabeen, Passing Garden Island with her original open wheelhouse - photo by Henry King. circa 1886-1899, courtesy MAAS,  https://collection.maas.museum/object/31388

Photo: The Pam Burridge is a Sydney HarbourCat-class  catamaran operated by Harbour City Ferries on the Parramatta River and Inner-harbour. Commissioned in 1998. Named after world champion Australian surfer Pam Burridge, a former Newport resident who now lives on the South Coast of NSW. Image: NSW Government