Bay Cats? Bold bid for Moreton Bay ferry

Published 8:00am 21 July 2023

Bay Cats? Bold bid for Moreton Bay ferry
Words by Kylie Knight

Moreton Bay Council has today announced it will fund a study to investigate the viability of a ferry service in Moreton Bay, dubbed ‘Bay Cats’ which could create an aquatic public transport network linking Bribie Island to Brisbane.

Mayor Peter Flannery says it could ease congestion on the Bruce Highway and create a new tourist attraction in Moreton Bay.

He says all options must be on the table and considered to help address the shortfall in major transport infrastructure in one of Australia’s fastest growing areas.

“Yes, this is bold thinking but we can’t keep doing things the same way and expect a different outcome,” Mayor Flannery says.

“Our population is growing, the Bruce is grinding to a halt, congestion consistently rates as one of the highest stress factors for locals in their lives - and yet we have this stunning expanse of sheltered waters just to the east of us that we’re not using to help people get around.

“So, we’re daring to ask, why not investigate Bay Cats as an aquatic alternative?

“The study will look at the possible demand for this kind of ferry service for both commuters and visitors. This is a golden opportunity pre-Olympics to make Moreton Bay a ‘must visit’ destination.

“If the demand is there, we would then need to upgrade existing jetties and invest in new ones to ideally link Bongaree, Sandstone Point, Scarborough Harbour, Redcliffe, Woody Point, Shorncliffe, and the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.

“In particular, we know the infrastructure constraint that the Bribie Bridge creates for islanders as the only way on and off, so a ferry service could be a viable alternative to connect residents into heavy rail stations.

“Obviously if the investigation tells us the demand isn’t there it won’t be a goer, but our preliminary discussions with industry, the Moreton Maritime Alliance, and ferry services providers have all been incredibly positive so far.

“Believe it or not Brisbane’s City Cats have only been operating for 26 years, but fast-forward to 2023 and they’re very much part of the capital’s identity.

“Just as Vancouver’s rainbow-coloured Aquabuses are now an icon, Amsterdam’s ferries are the freeway to cross the river from Central Station and Copenhagen’s harbour buses are the most colourful way to get downtown.”

Mayor Flannery said it would cost a “few million dollars” to start but he was keen to complete the study first to see it was viable.

“This is just step one in that process,” he said.

He would like the State Government to contribute to the cost of the study but said council would fund it on its own if it had to.

Mayor Flannery said the study would take six to 12 months to complete and council had already had preliminary discussions with SeaLink, which provides a similar service in Brisbane.

“They seem positive about it … that there is a demand for it. They see that the infrastructure in place could handle that initial load. We want to cross the Ts and dot the Is before we go asking for funding to deliver this kind of infrastructure,” he said.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said “it sounds like a great idea to me”.

“Of course we need to do the study to assess whether it’s viable. They’re all parts of the region I love to visit and visit with my family and it would be great to have a service like the one the Mayor talks about. We look forward to seeing that study,” he said.

Bay Cats? Bold bid for Moreton Bay ferry

Time to act

Moreton Maritime Alliance Director Brad Flynn says it is high time South East Queensland has a public transport icon that actually utilises the stunning sheltered waters of Moreton Bay.

“Not since the 60s and 70s has SEQ seen major investment in public boat harbours, when Scarborough Harbour, Cabbage Tree Creek Harbour and Manly Harbour were built. So, all these decades later it’s time for us to get creative again,” he says.

“Despite this lack of investment, the ‘blue economy’ is actually growing faster than the Australian economy and has increased in value by 126 per cent since 2001 with marine industries contributing approximately $74 billion to the Australian economy.

“There is an abundance of tourism, industry, research and education, and of course transport and marine infrastructure opportunities that we’re missing out on right now.

“Our current public transport system only accounts for roughly 2 per cent of commutes from outside Moreton Bay into our region, which is a statistic so shockingly close to zero that it speaks for itself.

“We need other public transport options to get people coming into our region, and take them directly to the destinations they want to visit.

“We have an opportunity to create a service that leaves a lasting impression on the people who visit our city, so they’ll go home and tell their friends and family what a great place Moreton Bay and South East Queensland was to see.”

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