River ferry marks 20 years of smooth sailing

THE Parramatta Ferry Service has celebrated two decades of happily chugging along the Parramatta River.

Don't be fooled by the number of candles on the cake, the service is no young thing in the ferry world.

Ferries first started travelling to and from Parramatta 224 years ago after the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove.

The first ferry, the Rose Hill Packet also known as "The Lump", was made by convicts and powered by sails and oars.

But the wind was taken out of the ferry's sails in 1928 when operations came to a halt.

It was only 85 years later, in 1993, that the ferry service between Circular Quay and Parramatta was re-established.

Twenty years of smooth sailing was celebrated on Monday with cake, streamers and photographs.

Former NSW transport minister Bruce Baird, who re-established the service, attended the birthday soiree.

"With Sydney's population forecast to top eight million by the middle of the century, public transport services will play an increasingly important role in maintaining the liveability and productivity of our city - and that includes our ferry services," he said.

"The Parramatta ferry service has had a terrific history and deserves to have a great future as well," Mr Baird said.

The service had been left high and dry in the past with cuts to peak-hour services from Parramatta to the city, low passenger numbers at Parramatta Wharf and disruptions caused by low tide.

But lord mayor John Chedid said the ferry was a way to address the transport needs of a growing population.

He said he envisaged the Parramatta Ferry Service becoming as iconic as the Manly Ferry in the coming years.

"There's a great opportunity to develop a fast and reliable commuter service that could connect Parramatta with the growing residential communities of Rhodes, Sydney Olympic Park, Meadowbank, Wentworth Point, Ermington and Rydalmere," Mr Chedid said.

These high-density suburbs are home to large numbers of young skilled professionals; an extremely valuable labour supply for existing businesses in Parramatta and future investors."

Harbour City Ferries chief executive Steffen Faurby said he hoped the service would expand.

"We are very proud to connect the people of Parramatta and Sydney on this wonderful journey," Mr Faurby said.

"With the population of Parramatta expected to grow over the coming years ferry patronage will hopefully increase and that's great news."

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