Yarra taxis hailed a success
Peter Mickelburough, state politics reporter
REGULAR water taxi services will ply the Yarra River from next month under a plan to open up Melbourne's waterfront to tourism.
The half-hourly services will run between Federation Square and Docklands, with stops at Crown casino, the aquarium, Southbank and the Exhibition Centre.
Tourism Minister John Pandazopoulos said key waterfront businesses had backed the idea as part of an plan to promote Melbourne as one of the world's great waterfront cities.
"Central to this is a permanent water ferry shuttle service for visitors to Melbourne," he said.
The water taxis will operate from 11am to 5pm weekdays and 10am to 8pm on weekends and on public holidays from December to April.
A trial service by Parks Victoria attracted more than 70,000 passengers in six weeks, Mr Pandazopoulos said.
"It's a goer, it's affordable, it's something that locals and visitors want to do," he said.
Regular water services were a key to making the waterfront more accessible and opening up the city to be enjoyed from the Yarra, Mr Pandazopoulos said.
He said the service would be put to tender, with the winning bidder announced within weeks and services to start before Christmas.
Other initiatives in the tourism plan for the waterfront include:
USE of quality street buskers and street artists to attract people.
FEATURING the waterfront on all promotional material for events attracting overseas visitors.
IMPROVING pedestrian access to the waterfront from bridges and improved signs.
INTRODUCING joint ticketing of attractions and transport.
MAKING the area cleaner and safer through better lighting, landscaping and co-ordinated maintenance, and cleaning.
The plan was designed to capitalise on 20 years of private and public sector investment in developments along the Yarra, Mr Pandazopoulos said.
Melbourne River Cruises director James Gantides said riverside businesses expected strong growth in the coming years and the waterfront plan would prove very beneficial.