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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

John Singleton Wants Sydney Ferries

Sydney ferries are up for grabs and Ocker billionaire John Singleton is interested - he says he can turn the iconic, service into a reliable, fast, and profitable organisation. A ferry ride across the harbour to Manly on a sunny Sunday is one of Sydney's unique experiences but an upgrade is long overdue.

When the Liberals took office after annihilating Labor in the state election earlier this year, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian called for expressions of interest to run a franchised Sydney Ferries. The government would retain ownership and control over fare structures, routes and services, while the operator would run and maintain the fleet. A group of executives, including ad man Singo and former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon, are ready to take it on. The group formed a consortium last year to build Australia’s second-largest aviation leasing business – the $2 billion Global Aviation Asset Management.

"The whole thing is pretty simple," said Singo "We sat around and decided we wanted to look at somewhere else to invest, and then this opportunity came up. Transport is transport, marketing is marketing, and money is money. We can do it." But French company Veolia Transdev and Singapore’s ComfortDelGro have also shown interest in the project. TransdevTSL operates and maintains Brisbane City Council’s ferry service and owns and operates TransdevTSL Shorelink Bus service on Sydney’s north shore. They have a strong track record for making real improvements to both the operations and maintenance of public transport systems. But Singleton doesn't seem worried. "We have the financial backing, we have a stack of money in America waiting to invest and we are ready to do that - I think living in Sydney, and understanding ferries and using ferries is what you need. Unless you understand and love Sydney Harbour, you just wouldn't get it.” And then "I love getting on at Circular Quay and taking the ferry to Manly so I can have a beer at the Steyne (Hotel), there's nothing better. That's what it is all about." Yes Singo, that's exactly what it's all about.

Sydney-siders who don't use the ferries are still helping to fork out $80 million a year to prop up a service that is crippled by debt. "It has to be a better service, and it must have a better charging mechanism so that every user pays," he said. "At the moment you don't have ticket collectors and people just aren't buying tickets. "We've been talking about the T-card for 10 years but the government still hasn't come up with anything and that is something that could be done.”

Good luck to you Singo, I hope you get it.