Price war brews between water taxi services

GAME ON: Sharon Groom, whose family owns Gold Cats’ Stradbroke Flyer, said predatory pricing tactics were being used by transport giant SeaLink. Pictured is a Stradbroke Ferries water taxi. Photo: File
GAME ON: Sharon Groom, whose family owns Gold Cats’ Stradbroke Flyer, said predatory pricing tactics were being used by transport giant SeaLink. Pictured is a Stradbroke Ferries water taxi. Photo: File

A CLEVELAND water taxi operator has complained to the ACCC, accusing Stradbroke Ferries of starting a price war to force her family’s company out of business.

Sharon Groom, whose family owns Gold Cats’ Stradbroke Flyer, said predatory pricing tactics were being used by transport giant SeaLink Travel Group on the North Stradbroke Island run.

Stradbroke Ferries have slashed return passenger fares from $20 to $14, effective from December 1.

But SeaLink Travel Group chief executive Jeff Ellison said the changes were about streamlining fares on all the company’s operations.

“Stradbroke Ferries had a number of different fare types for our walk on passengers,” he said.

“These ranged from $10 per adult return for our vehicle ferries and $20 per adult return on the fast passenger ferry. 

“We saw an opportunity to streamline our fares across all our 24 departures per day to make it easier for customers to travel on any of our vessels.”

Both companies operate out of Toondah Harbour and are coming under pressure as mining closes down on Straddie.

The state government has a $21 million transitional package in place, with the hope that tourism will replace sand mining. 

Mr Ellison said Stradbroke Ferries' fare restructure would help grow tourism on the island by providing more affordable tickets.

Ms Groom said the decision was motivated by greed.

She said should her family’s business close, SeaLink would have a monopoly, making it easier to hike prices.

She said the two companies had charged about $20 for passenger return fares for the past eight years, with the $14 SeaLink fee the cheapest tickets had been in two decades.

“They have cut fares to unsustainable levels and the (prices) don’t cover costs,” she said.

“Everywhere else (SeaLink) runs they have put the fares up. This is the only place they have competition and have put fares down.”

SeaLink operates out of 10 locations across Australia, including between Perth and Rottnest Island. Adults must pay more than $60 for that 30-kilometre return trip.

SeaLink’s Stradbroke Ferries fare restructure also meant commuters had to pay $312 upfront for a 30 return fare multi-ticket to avoid being slugged 40 cents extra per trip.

Mr Ellison said those costs would be amended.

“We agree we got that one slightly wrong on the first go,” he said. 

“We have listened to our customers and as of Friday (December 8), we are amending the 10 return trip ticket to the original island resident rate of $10.40 return or $104 in total,” he said. 

“We will also be reducing the 30 return trip ticket to $300 ($10 return).