May 20th 2011
Ferry timetable changes cause mixed reaction
On Monday morning the Sunferries' timetable will change and Magnetic Island residents and visitors who are not aware or familiar with the alterations should now take notice.
The major and most acute changes invove the late night services. The biggest being that the 11.30pm, Monday to Saturday service from Townsville to the Island, will now depart at 10.30pm with the 10.05pm (Mon-Sun) service also no longer available. The late Friday and Saturday night services from Townsville, departing at 12.30am, are also gone with the last now being 11.30pm from Townsville and 12.00am from the Island. Except for those Friday-Saturday late services the last ferry off Magnetic (Mon-Sun) will be at 11pm.
The only other change is a minor one: the early morning (Mon-Sat) ferry from Townsville now departing 5 minutes later at 5.35am.
The lessening of service has led one resident, Mr Ron Hocking of Nelly Bay, to write, "Giving island residents only two weeks notice of the cancellation of 2330 ferry Monday to Thursday, and 0030 Ferry Friday and Saturday is appalling. This is a major reduction to ferry services on to Maggie.
"For my family and another family it means we have to find accommodation in Townsville for a week, as our children are a part of the Grammar musical "The Chalk Circle" and are unable to return to our homes.
"It also means Magnetic island people are cut off from all cultural events that finish after 2200 Mon to Thursday, and after 2300 Friday and Saturday.
"Pity anyone that works shift work on the island such as nurses working in Townsville. Living on Magnetic will no longer be a viable option."
Magnetic Times has sought comment from Sunferries on these comments but is yet to receive a reply.
We did however seek Lorna Hempstead AM, President of the MI Community Development Association and also one of Magnetic's most frequent late returning passengers for her view. Lorna's attitude was considerably more sanguine. She responded, "As a traveller that quite often missed the 10.05pm and had to wait till the 11.30pm - I can testify that if there were 3 of us on the ferry it warranted a party. I always felt that we were very "lucky" to have that service every night. Although there is a strong public service element that Sunferries must supply - I do understand that 2 -3 passengers (and most weeknights NONE from the Island at midnight), is probably stretching service a bit far.
"Sunferries have confirmed that given reasonable notice (ie MORE than a week) and, should a group of people need to travel later than 10.30pm from the mainland, or 11pm from the Island, when the 10.30pm ferry is the last one, they will hold for an event group. They are doing this next week for the Grammar School kids who are in a school play and would not quite make the 10.30pm.
"The next event I can see it likely to impact is the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, so those regular audience members would need to discuss holding the ferry for about 10-15 minutes. (Concerts usually finished by 10.20pm to 10.30pm - so enough time to dash....)"
Following is the new timetable which starts on Monday May 23
Story and file photo: George Hirst
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