HAVE YOUR SAY

Emerald ferries slammed for lack of disability access

NOT HAPPY: Manly resident Evelyn Shervington said the Emeralds are
NOT HAPPY: Manly resident Evelyn Shervington said the Emeralds are "not suitable for disabled people". Picture: Geoff Jones

THE new Emerald class ferries are not suitable for disabled people, Manly resident Evelyn Shervington says.

In late October, the state government quietly rolled out the first of three Emerald class ferries amid protests to keep all four of the larger, original Freshwater class ferries operational.

Two Emeralds - the Fairlight and Balmoral - are in operation and their first month has seen a cracked hull, rudder issues and a broken window, with one towed by tugboat for repairs. Propeller works are being conducted on the Clontarf before it has taken its first passenger.

Mr Shervington was recently left sliding backwards in his wheelchair on the gangplank, as he tried to disembark one of the new Emeralds at Manly Wharf.

"It was really, really low [tide] and the gangplank was so steep that my tractor [attached to the front of his wheelchair] couldn't pull me up and it just skidded backwards, and the people behind me were worried," he said.

ON BOARD: An extra gangplank is stored in the foyer area of the new Emeralds. Picture: Evelyn Shervington

ON BOARD: An extra gangplank is stored in the foyer area of the new Emeralds. Picture: Evelyn Shervington

"The two wharfies came along and pulled me up the gangplank. It was an absolute shambles trying to get off. The ferry is not suitable for disabled people."

Mr Shervington said the Emerald's extra gangplank is stored in the vessel's foyer making it crammed for the elderly, disabled and people with prams, while aisles are too narrow for him to pass along without scraping his knuckles.

"They're hopeless for disabled people or even little old ladies who aren't so good on their pins," he said.

Transdev operates Sydney Ferries on behalf of the NSW Government and a spokeswoman said at "all times, the Emerald Class ferries are able to berth at Manly Wharf".

"It is only during a very low tide where services may need to operate from Manly Wharf 2," she said. "These conditions are infrequent and affect fewer than five per cent of services over the course of the year.

"This practice of using more than one wharf is not unusual and is necessary in certain conditions with the operation of the Australian-made, first-generation Emerald Class vessels as well.

This practice of using more than one wharf is not unusual and is necessary in certain conditions.

Transdev spokeswoman

"Although this practice is infrequent, Transdev will be installing next week a new gangway to improve the range of tidal operations at Manly Wharf 1, and continue to support the use of Freshwater vessels as well."

The spokeswoman said the Emeralds are designed to operate in swells up to 4.5 metres, but they are currently have a restriction not to operate in swells above 2.5 metres until "passenger comfort" trials are conducted.

"The purpose of those trials is to identify any issues and provide increased confidence in the safety, comfort and performance of the vessels before they start operating in larger swells," she said.

The spokeswoman said modifications to windows and rudders on the Emeralds have been made following issues on the Balmoral, and welding issues on the Balmoral were minor and "do not compromise the overall structural integrity of the vessel".

Deputy mayor Candy Bingham slammed "substandard welding" as the cause of cracks found in the Balmoral's hull. "It's substandard welding and if it's in one you can bet it'll be in the others," she said.

"It does make you concerned about what else could be going on."

Manly MP James Griffin said while "teething issues" are understandable, commuters are not getting an efficient and reliable service.

Have something to say? Send a letter to the editor at: editor@northernbeachesreview.com.au

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: