Pink route ferry riders threaten boycott over fare increase
Commuters are threatening to boycott the ferries after Transport Minister Terry Lister refused to listen to their concerns about a fare increase.
More than 100 passengers on the pink ferry route have this week signed a petition against the 100 percent price hike, which will double the cost of a ticket.
They had hoped to “do things quietly” and talk to Mr Lister in person, but say they have been left no choice but to “take things to the next level”.
The group of disgruntled commuters launched the petition just days after they were told Mr Lister was not willing to hear their concerns and ideas. Mr Lister told the House of Assembly last month that users of the Paget/Warwick route were willing to pay $5 rather than $2.50 per trip because weekend and holiday services had been reinstated.
He said the ferry route had been plagued by low ridership and that it cost Government more than $1 million a year to provide seven-day and holiday service. But commuters insist they had no idea what was being planned and the “overwhelming support” for the petition shows they are not being listened to.
Commuter Debra Saltus said: “No one is listening to us and we are fed up. We are the people who use this service and we deserve to be heard. Whether the Minister wants to admit it or not, there is a lot of opposition to this price increase.
“We’re not against an increase of say 50 cents or $1, but it’s an economic recession and a 100 percent increase is ludicrous. We are trying to follow the correct protocol to have our say but they are acting as if they don’t care.”
The fare price increase was due to begin on August 1, but the Ministry of Transport announced a last-minute postponement. No reason for the switch, or new start date, has ever been given. Ms Saltus and two other commuters met Marine and Ports director Francis Richardson on July 21. They asked if the Minister could attend the meeting, but he did not show up.
They then asked for a meeting with the Minister at a later date, but three weeks later they say they were told the Minister “doesn’t wish to see us, with no reason given”.
Talking about the meeting with Mr Richardson, Ms Saltus said the director showed “no reaction” but promised to take their concerns to the Minister.
She added: “It’s obvious the Minister makes all the decisions so we once again asked to speak to him directly... The Minister’s attitude is showing that he doesn’t care because his mind is made up. But he has to remember the people who vote, he has got to listen to the people”
The petition states that the price increase is “extremely unfair” for the shortest journey in the ferry timetable and calls on Government to review the price and frequency of services.
“It goes on to say that without a rethink, the passengers will “have no choice but to cease using the service”. “For $10 a day we may as well drive in and pay to park at Bull’s Head. “
Commuters would like to see three commuter services between 8am and 9am reinstated and hourly daytime services through the day, without the current three-hour lunch break.
When the new prices are introduced, regular ferry tokens will no longer be accepted on the route and special tokens will have to be purchased. A monthly pass will increase from $55 to $110 and a quarterly pass from $135 to $270.
There is also understood to be a fare being introduced for schoolchildren despite former Premier Ewart Brown introducing free public transport for all children. Ms Saltus said: “It’s like Government has forgotten everything about trying to encourage us to take public transport.
“It’s like one person was telling us one thing, now Minister Lister appears not to give a damn about whether we use public transport or not. Government isn’t on the same page, they aren’t thinking the same things. Minister Lister has come along and said ‘Who cares? Let’s up the prices.’”
Shadow Transport Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said “everyone has been misled” as Mr Lister said passengers approved the fare increases, when they insist they only found out by reading the newspaper.
She said she found the price increase “a little unfair” as 83 cents of every dollar spent on providing the ferry service comes from the taxpayer while only 17 cents comes from the fares.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin said the commuters had the price increase “hanging over their heads, creating unnecessary anxiety”. “I would encourage the Minister to meet with the constituents, as I found their recommendations and solutions to be most helpful.”
Mr Lister did not respond to our requests for comment.