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A PRIORITY lane for locals at the northern side of the Daintree River crossing has jumped the queue.

Douglas Shire Council is starting work on a feasibility study into constructing the locals-only thoroughfare to alleviate wait times for residents during busy periods at the Daintree Ferry.

The cable ferry crossing attracted about 1000 vehicles per day during the Christmas period, on par with previous years.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said the feasibility study would give engineers a greater understanding of constraints at the site.

“Council is absolutely committed to delivering a northern priority lane for our Daintree Coast community,” he said.

“Through all the consultation about this crossing, one thing we always get asked is, why can’t we have a northern priority lane?”

“This is a sensible improvement that we will deliver for our local community and it is worth progressing as a matter of priority.”

Staff are working to finalise the two-ferry contract with Sirron Enterprises Pty Ltd, with the northern priority lane project to be developed with guidance from them.

For many months, Council has been negotiating an extension to the current single-ferry contract, due to expire on June 30 this year, and unfortunately agreement could not be reached.

An interim single-ferry contract is now required to be released to the market via a competitive tender process to get the best value for ratepayers.

As part of this process, Council welcomes a competitive quote from the current operators in line with market conditions and will present an offer to buy or lease the vessel for the interim period.

Mayor Kerr said any decision made on the interim contract would have no bearing on the new two-ferry contract.

“Council staff have been negotiating for many months to extend the single-ferry contract with the current operators, but we have been unable to reach agreement,” he said.

“Council has a statutory duty to get the best value for ratepayers, particularly in these challenging economic times.  Unfortunately, we are not there.”

“This means we need to test the market for the interim contract, have contingencies in place and make sure we get the best outcome for our community.”

The tender for an interim contract is expected to be released to the market in February to ensure a successful provider is ready to run the single-ferry operation on 1 July 2021.  

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