Billionaire businessman Paul Little AO – who since last year selling his interest in the construction company he created has featured on realestatesource.com.au for some of his philanthropic efforts – was in Geelong on Friday to launch a new ferry service to Melbourne.
Geelong Flyer will run twice daily, cost $36 (or $29 on a
multi-pass), and take 90 minutes to arrive at Docklands.
December 2 has been set for the maiden voyage.
The Geelong-to-Melbourne ferry idea was peddled by Mr
Little – who is also a financial backer.
Mooted for about a year – the project also required a
state government subsidy.
Lesson learned from Wyndham Harbour ferry: take-up will be key
Mr Little’s latest initiative comes three years after he
shelved a similar ferry service connecting Docklands to Wyndham Harbour at
Werribee South, about 30 kilometres south west of the Melbourne CBD – almost half
way to Geelong.
The Werribee South one-way-commute was criticised for
taking too long (71 minutes).
Weekday patronage was lower than expected – resulting in
the return fare being slashed from $20 to $7.80 two months after it started
taking trips (prior to its launch, Mr Little said a ticket would cost $29).
Interestingly, weekend use for the Werribee South service
was higher than forecast.
The Wydnham Harbour boat – an Envirocat which, like the
Geelong ferry, seats 400, was leased by the operator, Sealink.
Mr Little is reported to have personally bankrolled $2.5
million to this three-month trial – part of plans he has discussed in
interviews for years to encourage ferry travel between Docklands, Bellarine
Peninsula and Mornington Peninsula.
The Geelong Flyer is an experience-journey taking the scenic route
The Geelong Flyer journey is being marketed as a unique experience.
“Everyone gets a seat, they’ve got aircraft-type tables so you can put your laptop down, we’ll have really good wi-fi and it’s got a licensed café,” Mr Little told the ABC.
With no speed restrictions, the boat can travel at up to
30 knots and 15 knots along the Yarra River.
A sister ferry, which has operated between Portarlington
and Docklands since 2016, was recently exempted from a 6 knot maximum speed restriction
between the West Gate Bridge and Docklands – a move which saw that trip cut by
20 minutes (to 80 minutes).
Sightseers, workers, could rely on ferry service if it was a network: opinion
The Geelong Flyer isn’t the best option for commuters
traveling to Melbourne for work – it will cost $7 more than a train and arrive
half an hour later.
It would also be quicker for anyone at Geelong to drive
to Wyndham Harbour rather than take a boat.
However, the ferry could be much quicker than road and rail options for commuters needing to travel between Geelong, Portarlington (or Queenscliff) and Sorrento.
Though implausible right now, a sophisticated water travel service could incorporate metropolitan regions including, for example, Brighton, St Kilda and Williamstown.
A network like this, integrated into the state’s public transport system, should create some of the operating cost efficiencies which may longer-term, reduce the user cost, and be discouraging private sector investors.
Paul Little since ‘retiring’ from Toll Holdings
Since retiring from Toll Holdings in 2012 after 26 years at the helm, Mr Little has undertaken a number of residential developments via Little Projects, a private construction company he established in 2006.
Last December Mr Little sold his interest in that business to existing directors (but stays on as a director).
Also at that time, Mr Little completed his $100 million “world class” VIP terminal and hangarage, Jet Base, at Melbourne Airport.
In May we reported the businessman and his wife, Jane Hansen (pictured, above), were contributing $30 million to the construction costs of a student accommodation complex, Little Hall, which will be retained by the University of Melbourne as an investment.
The 14-storey building with 669 dwellings is expected to return annual rent of $2 million – part of which will fund the Hansen Scholarship, targeted to students whose financial circumstances present a challenge to them accessing tertiary education.
The Hansen Scholarship will run for at least 40 years providing education, accommodation and financial assistance for general living expenses.
Between 2013 and 2015, Mr Little was Essendon Football Club chairman – handing over the position to former federal finance minister, Lindsay Tanner, who held that role at Windy Hill between 1993 and 2010.
Mr Little also has interests in several businesses including and outside of logistics.