Billionaire Paul Little will run a three-year ferry trial between Melbourne and Geelong from 2019

Port Phillip FerriesThe Bellarine Express will operate between Geelong and Melbourne.

A week-long trial of a ferry service between Melbourne and Geelong was such a success last month that the Victorian government has thrown its support behind a three-year trial of the trip across the bay from 2019.

Port Phillip Ferries, owned by former Toll boss Paul Little, is hoping to change the way Victorians move around Port Philip Bay, last year introducing a $10 million purpose-built fast ferry, Bellarine Express, which can carry up to 400 passengers. It has a cafe, bar, wi-fi and charging points for commuters.

This year Port Phillip Ferries has run “ferry to the footy” services between Geelong and Melbourne’s Docklands on AFL game days – the next one is this Saturday when the Cats take on the Hawks at the MCG – costing $36 for a return trip.

The government introduced a service between Docklands and Portarlington, further down the Bellarine Peninsula, in November 2016. Run by Port Phillip Ferries, it’s used by around 6000 people monthly, with that figure doubling in summer. The 75-minute trip costs adults $29 for a return service.

The Andrews government is giving Little’s company $6 million in funding towards the Geelong trial, to begin earlier in the new year.

A week-long trial at the end of July, funded by the Committee for Geelong, a consortium of 160 local businesses and other organisations pushing for a daily service, was an overwhelming success, with Little looking to commission another boat for the 105-minute trip now that the trial is going ahead.

“We are thrilled to confirm that the Geelong to Melbourne ferry service has been given the green light by the State Government of Victoria,” he said.

“My vision for Port Phillip Ferries has always been about making ferry travel accessible to as many Victorians as possible. This takes us one step closer to that vision.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said the option of a ferry service between Geelong and Melbourne was also a major boost for tourism to the state’s second biggest city.

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