ARGYLL Ferries, the newly formed subsidiary of David McBrayne, has been named as the preferred bidder for the Dunoon-Gourock ferry service.
The new £10.6m contract includes a raft of major improvements to the service including a bigger and faster vessel and an increase in scheduled services.
Current timetable restrictions will be removed with operating hours extending into the early hours over weekends and fully integrating with adjoining rail services.
Other benefits include making use of the new breakwater sheltered pier at Dunoon. Improvements will also be made to the Gourock ferry hub.
Two passenger only ferries, the MV Ali Cat and another from Ireland to be named the MV Argyll Flyer, will be introduced by the end of next month subject to contracts being exchanged on June 7.
The tender was awarded for a passenger only service following a European Commission decision to not subsidise a passenger and vehicle service.
The privately-run Western Ferries route from McInroy’s point, Gourock to Hunter’s Quay near Dunoon will continue to provide vehicle ferry services. It was one of two other ferry operators bidding for the contract.
A spokesman for David McBrayne, which is owned by state-owned ferry operator Caledonian McBrayne, said the company was “delighted”.
However, he admitted that the news was tempered by potential job losses as the new service does not require the same staffing levels as the existing vehicle service.
“We will do everything we can to redeploy as many as possible into other parts of the network and we will be meeting with them to talk through their options,” he added.
Alex Neil, the newly announced Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, said: “I am pleased to announce that Argyll Ferries has been selected as preferred bidder. This bid is set to deliver real benefits for passengers with a larger boat and additional sailings, offering best value for money and protecting the majority of existing jobs.”
The tender was awarded to Argyll Ferries on the day that parent company Caledonian McBrayne formally named the latest addition to its fleet the MV Finlaggan.
Editor: For insights on this success for Argyll Ferries and the overall context of the Dunoon-Gourock tendering process, Neil Kay’s website is essential reading.