A STRETCH of beachfront between Mussel Rocks and the Cowes Yacht Club is the preferred site for a terminal and pier for a car ferry connecting Phillip Island with the Mornington Peninsula.
The Cowes to Stony Point car ferry business case, which was released to the public this afternoon, assesses the project as having a benefit cost ratio of 1.67 over 30 years, making it a very viable option.
Concept sketches show a 205-metre jetty to reach deep water. It would be 12 metres wide, with two lanes for traffic, a pedestrian walkway and a safety lane.
It is built on pylons at the beach end so pedestrians can walk under it. The terminal has a ticket office, an administration office, a bus marshalling area and a small car park. Vehicles embarking on the ferry would queue on the jetty.
At a media briefing, the lead author of the report, Mark Olsen, stressed that this was a business case report, not a project design, so this is not necessarily how the jetty and terminal will look if they proceed.
But he said that, as a result of community feedback, a number of things were taken as a given: no dredging of the channel for the ferry to approach or dock; no loading or unloading of vehicles at the current Cowes jetty; and the new jetty should not impede access along the beach.
The ferry is an essential component of the State Government’s proposal to create an iconic touring route linking the Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula, Phillip Island and Wilsons Promontory, four of the state’s most popular tourist destinations.
The authors of the report write: “This 333-kilometre touring route would … be comparable to world-class vehicle touring experiences such as the Coastal Circuit Route in British Columbia (564 kilometres and two ferries) and the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland (2500 kilometres and a single ferry).”
While there was overwhelming support for a car ferry among Mornington Peninsula residents (87 per cent), it was much lower in Bass Coast (66 per cent), with concerns expressed around environmental impacts, traffic congestion and the location of the terminal in Cowes.
Mr Olsen said the business case addressed questions of cost, benefits and social and environmental impacts of a ferry. “We’ve been debating these questions since the last car ferry went under 30 years ago.”
The study, which was largely funded by the State Government, estimated the capital cost of establishing the infrastructure (principally the jetty and terminal on Phillip Island) at $63 million (net present value).
The economic impact to the two regions was estimated at up to $93 million over 30 years (based on an estimated $8 million a year in tourist spending), plus $12.3 million from savings on vehicle use.
The estimates are based on 10 sailings a day between Stony Point and Cowes (five each way) expanding to 14 a day during peak holiday times, and a 10 per cent allowance for cancellations due to unsuitable weather.
For the purposes of the business case, the researchers assumed a ferry with capacity for 300 passengers, 30 private vehicles and two coaches or articulated trucks.
The report states that a direct link between the peninsula and Phillip island would enable tourists to visit both and stay longer. It estimates an extra 138-172 direct and indirect jobs would be created in the first year, growing to 353 jobs in the 30th year.
Improved connectivity with the mainland would also offer social and economic benefits to residents of the island and an alternative route off the island in the event of an emergency.
- From Stony Point to Cowes, with the Cowes terminal and pier being developed on the current site of the Cowes Yacht Club
- From Stony Point via Tankerton (French island) to Cowes, with the Cowes terminal and pier being developed on the current site of the Cowes Yacht Club
- From Stony Point to Cowes, with passengers dis/embarking at the current Cowes jetty and vehicles dis/embarking at a site adjacent to the Anderson Boat Ramp;
- From Stony Point to Cowes, with a jetty and terminal immediately west of Mussel Rocks.
A bridge from Stony Point to Cowes was discounted due to the distance (eight kilometres), environmental impact and cost.
Each option was assessed for planning, environmental, social, traffic and economic impacts.
Advantages of the preferred site:
- There is no need to relocate the Cowes Yacht Club.
- It requires a shorter jetty than other options.
- It’s the closest to Cowes town centre for pedestrians.
- It does not require residential land acquisitions.
- It has several traffic flow options for access to and from the site.
- Traffic queueing on the jetty removes the need for significant on land parking.
A number of issues still have to be clarified. They include the impact on residents adjacent to the site, both during construction and when it is operational; local access to the jetty, eg. for fishing; and how a new car ferry service would integrate with the current passenger service between Stony Point, Cowes and French Island.
The report will now go out for public comment. Both councils must endorse it before it goes back to the State Government, which will decide whether to proceed with the project. If it does, the Government may build the port infrastructure itself or do it as a public private partnership with a ferry operator.
Information sessions will be held at the Mussel Rocks site from 10am-4pm on March 11-13 and 19-20.