Paul Little AO launches twice-daily Geelong-to-Docklands ferry service

Billionaire businessman Paul Little AO – who since last year selling his interest in the construction company he created has featured in the property press 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 floated by Mr Little – who is a financial backer.

Mooted for about a year – the project also required a state government subsidy.

Port Phillip Ferries will operate the Geelong-to-Docklands service.

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 contributed $2.5 million for this three-month trial – part of legacy plans he has discussed in interviews for years to encourage ferry travel between Docklands, Bellarine Peninsula and Mornington Peninsula.

Port Phillip Ferries‘ service between Docklands and Portarlington has operated since 2016. It will now sail to Geelong.

The Geelong Flyer is an experience journey taking the scenic route

The Geelong Flyer isn’t the best option for commuters traveling to save – it will cost $7 more than a train and arrive half an hour later.

But it is marketed to sightseers and workers as an experience journey.

“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 in this item.

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).

A ferry service integrated with Victoria’s public transport system?

It would be quicker to drive or take public transport from Geelong to access regions in the west serviced by a jetty including Wyndham Harbour, Point Cook and Williamstown.

However, a ferry would be quicker than road and rail options for Geelong commuters needing to access Melbourne’s southern suburbs or Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Though implausible right now, a sophisticated water travel service could incorporate metropolitan regions including, for example, Brighton, Frankston, Mt Eliza, Sandringham and St Kilda.

It could even consider servicing tourist hot-spots like Phillip Island, which is set to upgrade its ferry terminal infrastructure (a boat currently taxis passengers between Cowes and Crib Point).

Any ferry service integrated into the state’s public transport system – maybe using Myki – could create, amongst many things, cost efficiencies for the operator, and time savings for the commuter.

Paul Little since ‘retiring’ from Toll Holdings

Paul Little AO and his wife Jane Hansen. Mr Little is reported to have contributed $2.5 million for the Wyndham Harbour ferry. He is also part-bankrolling Geelong Flyer.

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 consultant).

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.

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 within and outside of the logistics sector.

VIP terminal Melbourne Jet Base at Tullamarine took five years to design and construct.

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Marc Pallisco

A freelance property analyst and journalist, Marc is a co-founder of realestatesource.com.au.

Marc Pallisco
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