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What? Don’t be silly. Unbelievably the vehicle service …

Comment posted Argyll Ferries welcomes inclusion in Cabinet Secretary’s talks in Dunoon by ferryman.

What? Don’t be silly. Unbelievably the vehicle service that ended in June was making a profit despite the sailing restrictions. Why would it take years to build up business?
As soon as your current tickets ran out you would buy a book for the service that suited you, so it would take at most a fortnight for regular users to swap if they wanted to. As long as the service was unrestricted a lot of people would opt for the CalMac route because it cuts out the Gourock jams and is a shorter drive to Glasgow. Didn’t Blacks Transport stop using the ferries altogether when CalMac ended, choosing to drive round instead, that must mean Western are a lot more expensive for haulage than CalMac. Presumably they would return to the route like a shot if it restarted. Also if haulage is more expensive on Western we must be paying for it in cost of goods.

ferryman also commented

  • Team Nipper, Western ferries may roll less than Jupiter and Saturn did but your car is going to get pounded by waves and you might get your windscreen staved in.

    Somebody remind me again who was it thought Ali Cat and Argyll Flyer would be reliable on his route?

  • If ships suitable for the route were provided then yes I would expect companies would take the service on.

    Looking at the Ferry Service review it seems clear the Scottish Government also thinks companies will take on CalMac routes, and Dunoon Gourock was one of the best CalMac had. It does seem to me that the writing is on the wall for CalMac. However unless the Scottish Government has learned from the Dunoon fiasco that will spell big trouble throughout Scotland. Provision of suitable boats will be a problem, tourist marketing will be a problem, relief vessels will be a problem – all as per Dunoon.

    Team Nipper mentioned Professor Kay’s blog, in it he argues Western Ferries are running one of the most expensive ferry services in the world and at a high profit. Lets say we don’t get a competing service here then why exactly should we effectively be being taxed to keep Western’s profits up?

    There are two ways to run an airline, high cost low volume like BA and low cost high volume like Ryanair/Easyjet. It would seem to me ferries are not much different and RET has proved that point. The big problem is that all the other businesses suffer because of the low traffic volumes.

  • Why not take a bus all the way round? Could it be time?

    Cost, travel time and frequency are not too important to casual users but they are critical to people who use services on a daily basis.

    Taking buses adds too much time to be practical, it will add an hour a day to a journey to Glasgow. Some people who commute by car will also be finding the new arrangements a strain because of increased travel time and distances.

    This change will result in commuters moving if they can, and they are unlikely to be replaced. This is going to impact house prices etc. It will not happen overnight but it will happen.

  • DunoonLad,

    Why would a new company have to wait longer than the time it takes for people’s books of tickets to be used for business to build up? As far as I know there are no long term deals so everybody is free to move at a week or twos notice.

    As to Western slashing fares – what a good idea!
    There has never been proper competition on the route I am sure they could cut fares substantially and still make a pretty profit.

    What would the effect of fares being cut be? Well we only need to look at the RET experience – traffic volumes increased so much the ferries don’t have enough capacity.

    So, plenty of room for two companies.

  • I am no accountant but looking at Cowal Ferries financial report to 31/March/2011 all the “deficit grant” paid by the Scottish Government was burnt up by the passenger service.

    It seems clear that if CalMac had run the service without a restricted timetable the profit on the vehicle service would have been much much bigger.

    I am not sure why dunoon lad thinks it would take time for a vehicle service to build up customers, I wish he would explain rather than simply repeating it. Granted Dunoon Gourock has been wiped off the CAlMac tourist map but local trade would pick up in short order.

Recent comments by ferryman

  • Responses to Scottish Government’s Information Day on potential Gourock-Dunoon ferry service
    As usual newsroom bends things by quoting the MVA report as saying the vehicle service ‘could be feasible’.

    In fact the reports states; “This study has therefore demonstrated that, given the assumptions made and analysis
    undertaken here,a passenger and vehicle ferry service IS feasible.”
    [ see section 9.1.10 ]

    I am not surprised that Serco are interested in what is Scotland’s busiest vehicle ferry route particularly when the competition turns such a massive profit margin from poorly located ports.

    If Serco have wider ambitions for ferries in Scotland, as it seems they do, then Dunoon Gourock would make sense.

  • Scottish Government moves on Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services provision
    “A lifeline ferry service is required in order for a community to be viable.”

    So Dunoon is lifeline then – good.

  • Scottish Government moves on Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services provision
    Newsroom says that Dunoon Gourock is “not a lifeline service”.

    I think Dunoon Gourock is an essential lifeline service but obviously Soapbox aka Newsroom does not.

    So where is the definition of “lifeline” so that we can decide who is correct?

    The answer is that there is no definition – Transport Scotland shall decide, route by route, to whom that applies.

    As to contractual terms, look at Dunoon Gourock, anybody can run anything there is absolutely no contractual need for the service to be reliable. So if your route is goung to be tendered in this way you are totally unprotected.

    Of course Dunoon Gourock is only a piddling little route – well no, according to the Scottish Government it is the most important Scottish route for vehicle transport and significant even on European terms, but that of course is not enough to make it lifeline in Newsroom’s eyes.

  • So what will Transport Scotland talk to Brussels about on Dunoon-Gourock ferry?
    Read the report.

    The taxpayer and the people of Dunoon/Cowal can have a passenger only service and pay a subsidy for it.

    Alternatively they can pay the same subsidy and get a passenger and vehicle service.

    Of course if they choose the vehicle service then the subsidy is paid back via berthing fees both to the Scottish Government and Argyll and Bute Council – in other words to the public purse it is for practical purposes free (which the passenger only service is not). Not only that but the operator of the vehicle service makes a larger profit.

    All of which in a Scottish Government produced report meets all EC requirements.

  • Lairds powering on to get Western’s boats completed
    So they are not actually as promised going to be in service for the games this year?

    If they were in service what would the additional car carrying capacity and people carrying capacity per hour have been?

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