Hastings gets into Tasmanian Spirit

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AN AMBITIOUS plan to redirect the Spirit of Tasmania ferries’ route from Devonport to Hastings – rather than Melbourne – has been floated as an idea from across the Bass Strait.

Federal Liberal MP Brett Whiteley is pushing a 10-point plan to “enhance the current business model” of Tasmanian government-owned ferry operator, TT-Line and increase patronage on its two ferries.

Mr Whiteley unveiled his proposal last week, including a recommendation to conduct a feasibility study to make Hastings a future destination for the MS Spirit of Tasmania I and II vessels.

When contacted by The News, Mr Whiteley said he had identified Hastings as a possible point of arrival from Tasmania to “take advantage of the South East Victoria growth corridor” forming around the planned Port of Hastings precinct.

He said the travel time to Hastings from Devonport would be significantly less than that from Devonport to Melbourne. The Devonport-Hastings route would be about 350km, while Devonport-Melbourne is 429km.

“This would reduce fuel costs for TT-Line, passing on savings to passengers and making the ferries service more efficient,” Mr Whiteley said.

“Many of the passengers aren’t necessarily going to Melbourne and this would be a way for people to be able to travel elsewhere in camper vans, for example, while avoiding the inner city Melbourne traffic.”

He said Melbourne was used as starting point for caravanning holidays to Adelaide and Queensland, for example.

The recently completed Peninsula Link freeway would be able to handle Spirit of Tasmania travellers’ traffic from Hastings to Melbourne, according to Mr Whiteley.

“It only takes about an hour or so to get to Melbourne from Hastings if that’s where travellers want to go so there would really be little difference in overall travel time,” he said.

Hastings MP Neale Burgess told The News the Tasmanian government had been in touch with the Victorian government about the proposal.

“We’re happy to work with them and any business we can bring to the Western Port community is always welcome,” Mr Burgess said.

He noted the Spirit of Tasmania vessels also carry freight so the plan could dovetail with the Port of Hastings development.

Mr Whiteley hoped the proposed Devonport-Hastings route could be a two-way win for both Tasmania and Victoria.

“We need to encourage more tourism visitors to come to Tasmania and my view is this route would be much more affordable for passengers,” he said.

He stressed the Devenport-Hastings plan was in its early stages, was “a long-term project” and a feasibility study would have to be conducted by the Tasmanian government and all stakeholders consulted before a decision was made.

Mr Whiteley’s vision for a docking berth at Hastings for the Spirit of Tasmania vessels would include the Tasmanian government possibly buying land at the new Port of Hastings precinct, if the multi-billion dollar project ultimately proceeds.

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