Argyll Ferries quoted forecast winds of 44mph when …

Comment posted Possible weather disruption to Gourock ferry services 14th and 15th June by KayBee.

Argyll Ferries quoted forecast winds of 44mph when the Met Office was forecasting 5 – 7 ie 18 to 38 but that was for the Mull of Galloway to the Mull of Kintyre including the Firth of Clyde and anyone who has sailed the Clyde knows that 5-7 inshore forecast means that the upper Clyde will be at the lower end of the forecast because of the configuration of the land. The hourly weather forecast for Dunoon was a mere 23 mph maximum. This is the second time I have checked when seeing their reasons for disruption and the second time they have vastly overstated the forecast.

Recent comments by KayBee

  • Argyll Ferries delighted to assist Cowal Games
    No one in DGFAG wanted the games to be disrupted because the ferries were unable to operate due to weather. They asked for a robust solution to any weather conditions to be in place i.e. boats of a sufficient tonnage and size to cope with adverse weather conditions as forecast last Tuesday. AF were lucky the forecast weather was delayed and has arrived today and guess what their status is “Disrupted”. What would that have done to the Games. So Mr Wade get your facts right and Newsroom should now come clean and tell us who backs their biased outpourings could it be another ferry company I wonder? What is wrong in wanting robust competition on what is the busiest ferry route in Scotland.

    “The Dunoon fantasists remain determined – against EU and competition law and against the commercial logic of endemic unprofitability – to campaign for a second vehicle and passenger service on the town centre route between Gouock and Dunoon.”

    Simply inaccurate the EU is actively pro competition; the streakers vehicle side made unsubsidised profits every year. There is nothing in EU law that precludes a vehicle and passenger service on this route providing that the vehicle service part is unsubsidised. If you are purporting to be a proper news purveyor then you have a duty to be balanced and accurate and not a propagandist for one company.

    “To assist their fantasy purpose, they have engaged in persistent and unjustifiable scaremongering on the safety of MV Ali Cat, Argyll Ferries’ passenger ferry now running the route – with no care whatsoever for how that might impact on audiences thinking of coming over for the Cowal Games.”

    Why then are the MCA taking the unprecedented steps of investigating The Ali Cat and the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure stating “it is not fit for purpose”

    It certainly suits the competition to perpetuate these myths running a service now not coping with the volume of traffic; a volume that is predicted to increase over future years. A competition that had a ludicrous hidden service subsidy since its inception by the restrictions imposed on CalMac service by the Thatcher Government. Who now want a monopoly which in itself is anathema to the EU.

  • Argyll Ferries geared up to carry 700 pasengers an hour to Dunoon’s Cowal Games
    And the A83 was open and not seen to be dangerous due to frequent landslip and rock fall which has happened more often this year than in the past 60 years. I hope we can sue Transport Scotland and AF for any shortfall in takings for this years games and spend in the town if the ferry service fails to deliver.
  • Argyll Ferries geared up to carry 700 pasengers an hour to Dunoon’s Cowal Games
    I think it is fairly obvious who the sponsors are judging by the support they are given on this propaganda drivel masquerading as news.
  • Dunoon ferry services: facts and fancies
    But not I fear if Alex Neil is to be believed and he should know He is after all Argyll Ferries ultimate Boss. Most of what you write newsroom is inaccurate, unresearched piffle. Clearly you have no journalistic training whatsoever. Educate yourself to the Clyde its history, the sea states, winds, the codes by which these vessels have to operate. Talk to people who are forced to use them to get to work when they are operating. Try to use Western Ferries to get to an appointment in Inverclyde by turning up on time for the last boat possible to get you there on time. Arrive close to the time of its scheduled departure and you will be very lucky if you can get on it. WF are not coping with the increased traffic they are now getting. Gourock is up in arms at the congestion created when a WF ferry comes in. Read responsible journals both online and in print to understand the facts.
  • Argyll Ferries performance stats for Gourock-Dunoon service in May 2012
    At the recent meeting with Alex Neil I produced from one website some 17 car and passenger ferries 12 year old an under capable of carrying around 30 cars and 300 passengers that were for sale under £2m.
    For Argyll Ferries to say that the criticism of their service is grossly unfair ignores the fact that in April alone the 91 weather cancellations compares with the 52 weather cancellations that the streakers had in three years. Hardly a reliable service or one that meets the requirements of an Essential public service i.e. one that connects with another essential public service – the trains.

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85 Responses to Argyll Ferries quoted forecast winds of 44mph when …

  1. It is June now and Argyll Ferries still cannot cope with the weather!

    You posted your message on 14/June. This morning 15/June the electronic notice board was saying “sailing to timetable”. In fact all the Argyll Flyer sailings were off. Text messages indicate they are likely to remain off until 16:00.

    In the meantime Western who have vessels adequate for the route are operating as normal.

    How can we have a commuter route where 50% of sailings are cancelled in what is perfectly normal weather. Imagine if 50% of trains cancelled in this way.

    Why is the Argyll Flyer unable to berth in Gourock at the linkspan she contracted to use?

    Both the vessels on this toute are totally unsuited for providing a reliable commuter service and Transport Scotland should be shot for not including relief vessels in the contract.

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  2. At the end of the day not only was the Argyll Flyer off but the Ali Cat call it a day. So tired commuters who had trouble getting to work (remember the signs said running to timetable when they were not) then could not use the ferry service at all to get home. At least is was dry if a little windy as they made their way to Western. Western appeared to have been running to timetable all along. The weather of course was normal and they have vessels adequate for the route.

    When the weary refugees made it along to Western Ferries (looking forward to the problem on the other side off getting home from a different place from whence they departed – remember they are on foot). The saw a sea of cars. All ten lanes of vehicles at Western were overflowing. At least as foot passengers they did not have to wait for three or four ferries to arrive before it was their turn to get on! Though maybe somebody should count the passengers and look at the Passenger Certificate?

    Every cloud has a silver lining, each and every ferry that sailed was full to capacity. Nobody waiting could possibly lament the passing of the unpopular streaker service and grudge Western maximising the tiny fee they charge for crossing with a vehicle on their monoploy route?

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    • Ferryman, I’m not trying to defend inadequate ferries, but was your statement that ‘the weather of course was normal’ correct? Here in Lochgilphead there’s been a very strong wind gusting from the east for most of the day, distinctly unusual for this area. If all ten lanes of the WF marshalling area were full, are you sure their ferries were running to time?
      If I seem a bit hostile, that’s because I am – I think that your statements of fact are sometimes distorted by your hostility to WF.

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      • Argyll Ferries quoted forecast winds of 44mph when the Met Office was forecasting 5 – 7 ie 18 to 38 but that was for the Mull of Galloway to the Mull of Kintyre including the Firth of Clyde and anyone who has sailed the Clyde knows that 5-7 inshore forecast means that the upper Clyde will be at the lower end of the forecast because of the configuration of the land. The hourly weather forecast for Dunoon was a mere 23 mph maximum. This is the second time I have checked when seeing their reasons for disruption and the second time they have vastly overstated the forecast.

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      • Ferryman obviously knows nothing about the sea. E’ly winds are notoriousa among seafarers like me and vary greatly even between places very close at hand. AF operate in the Clyde not Lochgilphead and it is only E’ly 4/5 in Dunoon today and both ferries which have been off since 1700hrs yesterday are still in James Watt dock Greenock at 1230hrs on Saturday. I have nothing against Western Ferries but against vessels that can’t operate in E’ly 4/5 conditions leaving Dunoon passengers stranded in the middle of June.

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  3. [Robert Wakeman] I have just checked my txt alerts. At 17:16 Argyll Ferries conviently notified passengers for the first time that the 17:20 and further sailings were suspended.

    Given that the Ali Cat had been sailing all day up until the cancelled 17:20 sailing I think we can safely say things must have been fairly calm, don’t you agree?

    Therefore weather was not the cause of a big buildup of traffic at Western.

    I you look now at 00:22 16/June you will see that Western Ferries are operating normally. At the same time I have a txt from Argyyl Ferries at sent at 22:53 saying their service is still off.

    You seem surprised that the Western Ferries marshalling area is full. Since the CalMac service ceased people having to wait several ferries before boarding is not an unusual occurance – not good news if you need to get somewhere on time.

    You have probably also missed the fact that in Gourock they are considering building a ring road to cope with the traffic congestion caused by the change.

    I have no hostility to WF. They provide an essential service which I have used for many years. At the same time I have recognised that the high cost of ferries is a total blight on this area.

    You on the other hand appear to live in Lochgilphead and use the ferries how often each week? Yet you have a fixation on the fact that the streakers had a gangway.

    The sea conditions here today were well within what can normally be expected. The bathtubs could not cope and the Flyer could not even dock at its contracted landing slip.

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    • No fixation – the gangway arrangement on the streakers was a nonsense in this day and age, for this type of service, and I’m very surprised that you don’t understand this.

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      • Like I said you have a fixation about gangways. The streaker service ended a year ago yet how many times have you posted about its ganway?

        Perhaps you should post about events closer to Lochgilphead and which you might have some knowledge – say the school dinner cam.

        Today Sat 16/June Argyll Ferries remain off since yesterday. Western Ferries, whose route crosses Argyll Ferries, continue to sail to timetable – check the websites for yourself.

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          • You comment widely about many topics. The depth of your knowledge on the Dunoon ferries seems to be that you did not like the gangway on a service which ceased almost a year ago and which you used infrequently. So comments born of ignorance – probably. I will assume your other pronouncements on just about every topic under the sun are also based on the same depth of knowledge.

            You will note today is 16/June and the warning was for 14 and 15 June. The last text I got from Argyll Ferries was at 12:18 saying the service was still suspended. At that time Western were running to timetable, several yachts were out sailing as were other relatively small craft and a windsurfer.

            I should add that when I made the crossing yesterday on Western, when Argyll Ferries were off and there was a big backlog of cars, the sea state was quite normal. When it get rough waves come over Western ferries thumping into car windscreens and making you fear they might break (as does happen) there was none of that.

            With the old streaker service I have seen spray come right over the bridge onto the car deck. The streakers were good ships, you would be taking your life in your hands to go out in the bathtubs in those conditions.

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  4. This is our public transport. You should not have to check a website each morning before setting off to work. Further more why are no busses provided on both side of the Clyde when the ferries are off. After all British Rail have to provide alternative transport when the train in not running.

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  5. ferryman – your comment in your first para above is so right – unfortunately Robert did not listen to his own father’s wise words on when to shut up !

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    • Malcolm, I have no doubt we will shortly get a post saying how ferocious the weather is in Lochgilphead at the moment:-)

      Here in Dunoon it is not a nice day, but not especially bad, the odd white horse. The latest text from Argyll Ferries though at 13:55 is that the service remains suspended.

      Prior to this service being introduced I spoke to somebody with natical experience of the Clyde. Refering to the Ali Cat he said it could easily be off completely for two or three days in a row due to the weather. It is June, not the depths of winter and we are seeing both the Ali Cat and the Argyll Flyer incapable of coping with perfectly normal conditions on this route.

      Once again imagine if this happens at Cowal Games or the Mod. Are they going to draft in some seaworthy vessels for those events and who is going to pay for them?

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  6. @R.Cowieson – yes, there were shuttle buses running at both sides to transport passengers to/from Western Ferries. Where are all the extra vehicles coming from when Cal-mac on most runs only had a handfull of vehicles? Yes, tourists are about. Why doesn’t someone lease the Waverley for the games weekend, as she was crusing the Clyde yesterday during “the stormy weather”.

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    • Er.that handful would be 60,000 vehicles!
      Perhaps that would be why people in Gourock are getting so upset?

      Perhaps that is why on Friday 15/June all 10 lanes at Western were full?

      DunoonLad do you use the ferries? Actually do you live in Dunoon?

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      • Because, DunoonLad, if you don’t live in Dunoon, and you’re not a regular user of the ferries, you’re not entitled to comment. And be very aware that constructive comment is completely forbidden, so shut up and leave it to the experts.

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        • Robert what are your constructive comments on the gangway that ceased to be used a year ago?

          Did you dislike the colour?
          Was the finish on the handrail not to your taste?

          My recollection was that the handrail at least remained attached to the boat which does not appear to be the case presently (unconfirmed).

          If you wish to submit comments then at least say you are referring to something in the past, and that you don’t actually use the service. That way people can indeed put your comments into perspective and assign the appropriate weight.

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          • Having been previously accused by you of being ‘fixated’ on the streakers’ gangways, I’m reluctant to respond, but if you’d used them you’d surely be aware that they were awkward to use – could be steep depending on the state of the tide, with an awkward step on or off at the upper end, were devoid of weather protection, and landed you on the boat one (open) deck above the accommodation, with a steep stair between the two. Why is the fact I didn’t regularly use the service important? Do you think that, with regular use, familiarity would have bred resignation to the bad facilities?

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          • To Robert Wakeham

            You need to take a sharp step back from your posts and consider them in the cold light of day.

            Piers are fixed. Tides go up and down. Boats have used gangways since … well boats.

            They are not ideal. However a boat that sails is worth 1,000 that do not.

            Perhaps somebody can come up with a better solution but if the boat cannot sail I am not even going to get as far as trying to get on it.

            As to your question “Why is the fact I didn’t regularly use the service important?”
            you go and have a think about that.

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          • Ferryman: ‘perhaps someone can come up with a better solution’ – they did centuries ago, things called pontoons (sometimes called landing stages) And these days, for places where pontoons are impractical, or would cost too much, there can be adjustable passenger ramps that are a huge improvement over the traditional gangway, on either the wharf or the ferry. But I’m sure that you know all this already, don’t you?

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    • Why should somebody need to lease the Waverley?
      Should we not expect the current contract to be adequate?

      You are perfectly right of course the Waverly is a passenger only paddle steamer built in 1947 yet it is perfectly able to paddle up and down the Clyde in the totally extreme, exceptional, horrific, normal weather that prevents our ferry service from running!

      The current vessels are simply not fit for purpose.
      The people who accepted these vessels were not competent to do so.

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        • I have read that the Gourock-Kilcreggan service is in breach of several aspects of its contract. If that is correct then the Kilcreggan contract is much better than the one for Dunoon-Gourock.

          We have a rotten service but that is all the contract requires. In trying to deal with the problem Alex Neil has been well and truly stitched up by Transport Scotland. They put no clauses in the contract to ensure boats could operate reliably in the weather on the Firth of Clyde. The boats cannot operate but performance to contract is good. So how is Alex Neil going to get out of that? Maybe he should start by firing the officials who did such a poor job.

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  7. The problem with the current service is that the vessels are to small(tonnage) to cope with varying weather in the upper Clyde .Last weekends weather was moderate at most in the upper Clyde and in previous years would not have caused any problems .What the service needs are larger boats able to cope with the types of weather & sea that we have .The idea that pontoons are going to improve this service do not stack up the biggest problem is the the passengers comfort during the crossing and pontoons are not going to alter that.Pontoons by there very nature move with the tides and swell and instead of having just the vessel moving at the static link span you would have both moving which would not be comfortable for passengers.This weekends cancellations by the Flyer were caused by inability to berth at Gourock due to swell ,poor fendering on both the vessel and at Gourock berth and her size helped cause this.

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    • Surely, if the ferry service is to be fit for purpose, every aspect that’s failing needs fixed, including the landing arrangements. If pontoons really aren’t robust enough, and berthing shelter can’t be improved, then there’s a need for adjustable ramps either onshore or on the boats. These need careful design to suit the users, not just the operator. For example, the fairly new shore gangway at Port Askaig is a bad example, with such a long stretch of heavy transverse ribs that it’s more suited to cattle than people. The impression that I get around the west coast is that much more attention has been focused on the development of efficient vehicle ramps over the years than on the equivalent facilities for people.

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      • Why don’t you start a Scottish Ferry Gangway users group? Then you could hold meetings with yourself to discussing the finer points of the design of ramps and gangways that you might use once a year.

        Most people’s first priority is seaworthy vessels that can actually sail.

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  8. Not the ideal solution I know, but if the Sound of Scalpay and/or Sound of Sanda, we’re to be sold by Western Ferries (there would obviously be a restriction by them on using the ships for vehicles) would it be viable for them to be converted to passenger only ferries? They are obviously of the tonnage required for the route, and would therefore (hopefully) be reliable replacements for the current tubs. Costs would be high I guess, but given the reliable service they would provide, would it not be a route to investigate? Yes, it’s not what a lot of people want, but………..

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  9. To ferryman- if I recall history correctly, Western always have sold their ships with the provision that they would not be able to run a service in opposition to them, hence I cannot see they would want to see them running a vehicular service from Dunoon to Gorock town centres! Would you if you were in their position?

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    • Dunoonlad I did not realise you were saying Western would restrict them to passenger only.

      They would be able to handle the weather better than the current vessels. It would be very expensive to run them passenger only though. The profit comes from vehicles.

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  10. Again, I have no idea if Western would be selling any ships, and if they did, what restrictions they might put on them. Passenger only service is currently subsidised, but surely these ships would be more than suitable for this route, and the passenger capacity could be vastly improved with them on the route. Just an idea that might be viable?

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    • Any ship fit for the weather will be too large to be viable carrying just passengers.

      The current service uses bathtubs to keep costs down but the passengers still need subsidised. The bigger the boat the greater the subsidy, unless you start carrying vehicles.

      As you increasing the passenger capacity of a vessel you start needing to increase crewing levels and safety arrangements. Carrying vehicles does not have the same impact but increases revenue.

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  11. While everybody debates the service there seems to be silence from the Dunoon Ferry Group who have not changed there web site since March, it would be interesting to hear what input they have put in and what progress has been made.

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  12. Alex Neil originally agreed his plan with the Council, the Ferry Group did not exist then. Almost immediately Cllr Walsh started saying that the Government were not living up to their end of the bargain by failing to consult on key points.

    The Ferry Group have an article in the recent Observer. In it they raise a number of sensible questions about pontoons which they say have not been answered. They also flag up that the Council appears to be a bit ambiguous about the status of the pier.

    Now that we have an SNP led council it will be interesting to see where they sit. Will they press on with pontoons at a cost of £1.5M without clearly knowing what they are for? Will they clear up the ambiguity about the future of the pier?

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  13. The Cowal Courier has an interesting article on an e-mail discussion they had with our M.S.P. regarding any replacement ships. There was an update from the ferry users group in the Standard last week.

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    • Alex Neil originally agreed his plan with the Council, the Ferry Group did not exist then. Almost immediately Cllr Walsh started saying that the Government were not living up to their end of the bargain by failing to consult on key points.

      The Ferry Group did have an article in the recent Observer. In it they raise a number of sensible questions about pontoons which they say have not been answered. They also flag up that the Council appears to be a bit ambiguous about the status of the pier.

      Now that we have an SNP led council it will be interesting to see where they sit. Will the Council press on with pontoons at a cost of £1.5M without clearly knowing what they are for? Will they clear up the ambiguity about the future of the pier?

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      • Ferryman, I can explain what pontoons are for: they’re to facilitate the transfer of passengers (passengers not in vehicles) between land and boat – and they’ve proved very effective all over the world for a very long time. The question at Dunoon & Gourock is the provision of pontoons that are sufficiently robust for the sea conditions.

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        • Robert you are starting to fixate on gangways again.

          The current bathtubs cannot sail because of the weather. So, in that context, what are the pontoons for? No point in having robust pontoons if the boat is still not going to sail.

          The article in the Observer was very clear; what problem or problems are the pontoons supposed to solve, why are they the best solution for those problems, what alternatives were considered, are they cost effective and so on – all very sensible questions. If the Council blunders on and spend £1.5M in Dunoon (presumably the taxpayer will spend another £1.5M or so in Gourock via CalMac) without good answers to those questions then they deserve to be shot.

          Also since Alex Neil seems to be going to replace the Ali Cat how can you design the pontoons without knowing what vessel will use them? Maybe he will get a vehicle ferry that cannot use the pontoons!

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          • Ferryman – I go on about gangways because they tend to be so bloody awful; pontoons aren’t designed to suit particular boats – there have been examples at various Calmac termini of the folly of designing linkspans to fit specific boats, and the whole concept of a pontoon is that it provides a step-free link between boat and shore, via a covered link walkway span that doesn’t have to be designed like a non-slip gangway for livestock transfer, and if there’s a change of boat on the service the pontoon ballasting can be adjusted to match. Not rocket science, but much more civilised than some horribly clumsy and awkward gangway.

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        • Robert you wrote “pontoons aren’t designed to suit particular boats” – of course they are. Imagine trying to disembark foot passengers onto the same pontoon from the Ali Cat and the Saturn! The pontoon design needs to consider the vessel’s freeboard, otherwise you will need your hated gangway to get down, or perhaps up, to the pontoon.

          Pontoons do have the advantage of moving up and down with the TIDE. However they have a disadvantage in that they can also move up and down with waves, and that motion may not be synchronised with the up and down motion of the boat i.e. boat may be going up while pontoon is going down. So pontoons are a simple solution to a tidal problem for a given boat design, but the situation in stormy waters is more complex.

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          • Ferryman – you seem to get very intolerant of most views other than your own, but only a fool would think that future terminal design should be limited by the idea (is this really a possibility?) of running such disparate boats as the Saturn and the Alicat on the same route. I thought the Saturn was past history, and I’d like to think that existing passenger boats are not far behind.
            Having said that, I’ll bet there’s somewhere in the world where there are pontoons long enough to have different sections at different heights, just as this works at some railway platforms.
            The whole point of pontoons is that they move up and down with the tide, to maintain the correct level for the boat, and they’re heavy enough and sufficiently secured that they’re not unduly affected by wave motion.
            Are you thinking of the flexible cellular plastic pontoons that flex with the waves, and are designed for small boat landings? I’d hoped you were more knowledgeable than that – choosing to sign yourself ‘ferryman’ suggests a certain degree of expertise, although I notice that this has occasionally been challenged by others

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  14. To ferryman – the current Western ships probably do not have large enough passenger lounges. As a lot of posts point out, only purpose built ships will provide adequate facilities, unless you go back in history and use ships like “the Maid class” which were best described as small steamers, with good passenger facilities. Some of them were eventually converted to carry cars.

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    • To get the most economical ferry for a route it has to be purpose built so that it is optimised for numbers of passengers, vehicles (if carried), crew, speed, docking ability, sea-worthiness etc. – this has been pointed out by Niel Kay several times.

      Everybody would have been happy with the Saturn or Coruisk being used as a short term measure. If instead Alex Neil is now trying to buy replacement vessels, as seems to be the case, then no doubt one problem is that he cannot find anything practical on the market – which supports Neil Kays position that you need to build.

      Also what is Alex Neil trying to buy, is it another small passenger ferry and what will the cost be? If it is then it sounds like making the same mistake twice and the money plus the money for pontoons would be better spent on a reliable (i.e. bigger) vehicle ferry.

      Why were the Maid Class converted to carry cars – to make money!

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  15. I was determined not to get involved in ferry debate sgain, but find Robert Wakeham’s self-important pronouncements increasingly tiresome and irrelevant.
    And the fact that he seems to be getting more thumbs down than a duff gladiator indicates that I am not alone.
    The nub of the problem is not lack of pontoons or the boarding facilities of vessels built forty years ago, a subject which appears to obsess Mr Wakeham; the problem is that the ships provided for the route are patently incapable of performing the task.
    Ferryman is absolutely right about the Maids. They were fine wee ships and good seaboats, but they were passenger-only vessels, and had a short lifespan on the Clyde because they were rendered uneconomic by the rapid growth of car ownership. The longest serving of them, the Maid of Cumbrae, only survived because she was converted into a car ferry and in that role was much more versatile.
    It’s also worth pointing out that Calmac couldn’t even make a tiddler like the Keppel pay her way.
    So it stands to reason that a larger passenger-only vessel on the Dunoon-Gourock route is only going to place an even greater burden on the taxpayer.

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    • Bill, at least the people who used the Maid chose a proper ship able to cope with sea conditions. She was about 500 GT roughly 3 times the Argyll Flyer and 6 times the Ali Cat.

      At that size she could carry over 600 passengers but of course, as you said, with car usage that became uneconomical so she was converted to carry cars as well.

      Why do our politicians and civil servants think they can get away with small bathtubs?

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  16. Its time we banned people from living on island sand bring them all onto the mainland this would do away with the need for ferries and jetties, if people want to live on island then they should pay their own way for transport.
    How much of the tax payers money is wasted on these island folk

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    • Right Keith, you could start by thinking about Islay. How many distilleries are there? How much do they contribute in taxes every year? The Ileachs would be delighted by your idea – to hell with Calmac, we’ll retain our taxes and run our own ferries, thank you very much.

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    • As Britain is an island, does that mean we will all be evicted to Europe? Australians would not be too happy about this arrangement either.

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  17. I’m disappointed in you Bill, you seem to be as obsessed with the past and as ignorant of current good practice as the rest of the ‘thumbs down brigade’ Do you really think that the boarding facilities of ferries built forty years ago are not worthy of comment?
    I’m beginning to think that there’s a group of people here who really haven’t a clue what a good passenger ferry operation looks like, and this is really rather sad.
    Ideally you’d all go off on a jaunt around Europe (starting in London and concentrating on Norway) to find out how the world beyond Dunoon operates.
    The trouble is, unless you paid for yourselves, the traditional way of obtaining such a jaunt would be to serve in the SPT organisation, but there seems to have been ‘study tours’ by senior people in that outfit where transport infrastructure was about the last thing being studied. It’s not just the design of the boats inappropriate for the task, it’s the landing ‘arrangements’, and having different places controlled by different organisations should be high on the list for reform before new boats are procured. Unless there’s some sort of enlightened, committed and capable transport authority to bang heads together and really develop a service that will encourage customers rather than driving them away there’s not much hope, and I can see WF becoming the only ferry service of any description in the area.

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    • Once again Robert fixates on gangways. At least he seems to have acknowledged that pontoon design depends on the boats using them – though often they need gangways as well. In fact it is hard to concieve of a passenger ferry using pontoons without gangways.

      Consider the blind woman who took Alex Salmond to task on Radio Scotland, the one whose emails our MSP Michael Russell could not be bothered to reply to.

      She had two problems;

      Firstly she felt insecure in the current vessels because of their pitching and rolling when under way, pontoons will not solve that – only bigger boats.

      Secondly she did not like the current gangway arrangement because she could not walk in parallel with her guide dog. Will pontoons improve this – no, they will probably make the situation worse.

      To get onto the pontoon you will have to use a gangway of some description. This will probably be long, more than likely uncovered and may well move. The pontoon itself is likely to be exposed and may move. To get from the pontoon to the vessel you will use, guess what, a gangway. If the ferry is the Ali Cat or the Argyll Flyer it will probably be exactly the same gangway that the blind lady complained about. There may be a couple of differences now, both ends of the gangway may be going up and down and the gangway may be from the ferries side rather than the stern (as at present) and so may be more vulnerable to the ferry rolling.

      What a pontoon might do is make the service cheaper to run since less fuel is likely to be used docking.

      So, how can you design the pontoons without knowing what boats will use them?

      What are the pontoons for, saving fuel?

      Do they deliver a benefit that justifies spending £3M on them?

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      • Less fuel used berthing at pontoons therefore cheaper = Rubbish!

        Cast your mind back to the gangways for the streaker – the same blind passenger would not have been able to walk alongside her dog then either.

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        • The current method of berthing is time consuming and expensive of fuel.

          If you there was a pontoon could you come straight alongside which would be both faster and more economical in fuel.

          If you do not think cost cutting and economy is behind the present arrangement then why is it that the Ali Cat, which is the worst but cheapest vessel for the route, bears the brunt of the timetable. She burns less fuel than Argyll Flyer.

          Sorry but how do you are you connecting the gangway with fuel? The blind Lady seemed to be a regular ferry user, though I have never met her.

          Her problem was with the current arrangements, she did not mention the previous arrangement to Alex Salmond. Personally I have had no issue with either the gangways on the streakers or the current service. Though the gangway arrangement on the Ali Cat did result previously in questions being raised in the House of Commons when people said they had nearly been killed using them.

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      • Ferryman – what are you talking about? Ok, you don’t like pontoons, but don’t construct objections so nonsensical that they damage your credibility. How on earth can the use of pontoon landings make life more difficult for a blind person with a guide dog? Why do you assume that the the access to a pontoon, and the pontoon itself, will be exposed to the weather? Why do you mention the gangway access used for the Alicat and the Argyll Flyer, when these boats seem to be universally unpopular and in need of early replacement? Why do you assume that pontoons and their linkspans ‘may well move’ – in my experience the movement is not noticeable. If pontoons are custom designed to be an exact match with a specific design of boat they risk having to be altered or replaced if the type of boat is changed. That’s the advantage of being able to adjust the ballasting in them. Fair comment is one thing, contrived objections just suggest a closed mind (or ignorance) on your part.

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        • The only purpose anybody seems to give for pontoons is to “improve” the existing service.
          So it is perfectly reasonable to consider what would happen if the Ali Cat and the Argyll Flyer were used with pontoons.

          The current linkspan adjusts it height for the incoming vessel. The linkspan is rock solid. The lady complained about the gangway she then has to use to board the vessel.

          With pontoons you have exactly the same scenario except the pontoon may move. So what have you gained? Even if the pontoon is also rock solid (which is a big if) what have you gained for your £3M?

          I have absolutely nothing against pontoons. Providing they solve a specific problem. Recently Argyll Ferries were off due to easterly winds, would pontoons have helped?
          Easterly winds would probably be the worst for pontoons both here and in Gourock.

          The lady also complained about the ride being too rough, would pontoons help – not at all.

          Why did Mike Russell MSP not bother to respond to her emails?

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          • ‘The only purpose anyone seems to give for pontoons is to “improve” the existing service’.
            No, Ferryman. Why do you think that they’re not relevant to the future of the service, with new boats?
            Do you think the ‘current linkspan’ (one at each terminal) is suitable for passenger use as well as for the vehicle traffic that’s stated to be essential for these ferries – are you proposing mixed use?
            At Gourock the linkspan is fine for the vehicle route through the terminal but hardly ideal for the pedestrian route for rail passengers.
            You compare the behaviour of pontoons unfavourably with that of linkspans, but this isn’t true in reality – you seem to be keen to imagine disadvantages that don’t exist, and even introduce total red herrings – they have to be designed to be stout enough for the sea conditions, so what have easterly winds got to do with it? If the weather’s too bad for the boats to operate (and I don’t mean just the existing boats) then pontoons wouldn’t be in use. As for ‘the lady complained about the ride being too rough, would pontoons help, not at all’ – what have pontoons got to do with the ride being too rough? My point is that pontoons would make passenger access on and off the ferries much easier, and your assurance that you have absolutely nothing against pontoons is contradicted by your imagined objections to them. You seem very confused, but maybe this just reflects some basic conflicts between what’s best for vehicles and what’s best for people, as things stand – especially at Gourock.

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  18. The pontoons will save money and cost jobs the operator will make terminals automated with no shore staff in a bid to make cuts.If this happens there will be no back up for any technical failure and no staff on hand .Already Dunoon has no Argyll Ferries rep and all enquiries and complaints are dealt with by Argyll&Bute staff.With automation there will be no one.

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    • Innes: Agreed that there need to be adequate and properly qualified staff (and definitely not just the sort of phone ‘help points’ that you find at unstaffed railway stations), but to object to pontoons on the grounds that they’ll cost jobs compared with gangways is Luddite thinking – a ferry service shouldn’t be seen as a job creation programme. The sort of gangways that have to be laboriously manhandled into position on some Calmac services may be fine for jobs, but are labour intensive and a real anachronism in this day & age.

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  19. Cowal Courier is suggesting to-day that there may well be thoughts of cancelling the contract with Argyll Ferries due to last weekend’s chaos. Problem is what would/could replace this service at short notice?

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    • As stated before the incompetence in Transport Scotland (TS) has stiched up Alex Neil. Yes the service last weekend was appauling but since it was due to weather under the daft TS contract all the missed sailings count as if they had taken place i.e. 100% reliable! As a result contractually there will be no grounds for replacing Argyll Ferries.

      Last weekend there was a Primal Scream concert in Dunoon, bringing a welcome influx of tourists to the town which is recognised as economically vulnerable.

      Argyll Ferries contribution was to run a half service on Friday and to be off completely for most of Saturday. Western could not keep up with the vehicle demand so nodoubt a lot of both foot and vehicle passengers were fedup and will not be coming back.

      Prior to that Argyll Ferries ran a half service for a week including the Fri, Sat and Sun of the jubilee weekend. This was because the TS contract did not include relief vessels and the Argyll Flyer needed serviced.

      Next disaster on the cards is Cowal Games because the TS contract makes no special provision for this. The bathtubs as we know could well be off if there is more than a gentle breeze and, even if they run, there is no relief boat to provide extra capacity – at a time when a lot of people want to come on foot.

      Last year the Saturn was used incase there was bad weather and to increase passenger capacity. What will they do this year and who is paying for it as there is nothing in the TS contract?

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  20. Robert:
    I’M obsessed with the past?
    The boarding facilities of forty-year-old ferries may well be worthy of comment, but have as much relevance to this debate as the access provision for elephants on Noah’s Ark.
    Have you been reading your posts before you put them online?
    Do you read the posts – or more to the point grasp the content – of others before you accuse them of being ignorant, intolerant or stupid?
    Has it occurred to you that the very personality defects you attribute to those who disagree with you might more accurately be applied to you?
    You seem to think you are the only person who’s ever sailed on a ship or ferry beyond the Clyde.
    I’ve been on one or two myself – in the USA, Germany, France and extensively in the Greek islands, not to mention the English Channel and the Northern Isles – but just because I’ve sailed on them doesn’t make me an expert or give me the the right to an opinion which is any more valid than the next person.
    You persistently miss the point – I suspect deliberately.
    It’s simple.
    Passenger-only ferries do not make money. Vehicle carrying vessels do.
    Combine the two and you will at least lower the cost to the taxpayer of operating the ship.
    The provision of larger more sea-friendly passenger ferries, whether they come alongside jetties, pontoons or the dark side of the moon, will inevitably cost the taxpayer more money – and that’s an inescapable fact.

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    • Bill, I can understand your determination not to get involved in the ferry debate again, given how much has been said previously, but I make no apologies for vigorously arguing my corner in the face of a good deal of abuse, ignorance and tunnel vision from people who don’t seem to want to discuss anything outside their own assumptions about the ferry service (mostly ‘Ferryman’ and Gus McKay) . When you ‘came back’ you called my arguments ‘increasingly tiresome and irrelevant’ and of course I object to that. I brought up the subject of pontoons and get harangued as if I’m the antichrist. That, to me, is not just ignorance, it’s real oafishness and you in particular are capable of better than that. People’s experience seems to be based on the performance of the ‘streakers’, but while these had decent passenger accommodation they had lousy boarding arrangements and the shore facilities – particularly the transfer to trains at Gourock – were poor.
      I don’t know why your point that ‘passenger-only ferries don’t make money, vehicle carrying vessels do’ should prevent me arguing for better passenger facilities – whatever the economics, not everyone travels by car or bus and I’m clear in my mind that if Dunoon is to prosper there must be a decent passenger link. As I see it the vehicle link spans are fine for vehicles but – particularly at Gourock – are directly in conflict with the provision of passenger facilities. You can see what driving down the cost of passenger services is doing to the Gourock – Kilcreggan service, and on the Gourock – Dunoon route I don’t accept that the best value for money involves provision of vehicle ferries unless the existing facilities – as well as the boats – are recast to provide a really decent level of service. I suspect that this won’t happen until the government comes round to the idea of a transport authority to take over management of the Clyde ferries with the aim of improving integration – and showing real faith in the economic future of the area by fostering investment in every aspect of the services to bring them up to scratch. Both Cowal and the Rosneath peninsula demonstrate the need for this, and I don’t see either the Calmac group or SPT (as it stands) being up to the job.

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      • Yes Robert you have really strong views on this because once in a blue moon you have used the former streaker service and you did not like the gangway.

        Tell you what next time over 400 people who actually need and use the ferries have a meeting why don’t you come along and give them the benefit of your wisdom, experience and insight.

        My recollection of Michael Russell MSP’s appearance in the Queens Hall at such a meeting last year was that he was invited to step outside.

        People want a reliable service.
        The current service cannot cope with summer weather, that says it all.

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        • Ferryman, the gangways on the streakers were so bad that why shouldn’t I criticise them? You’re right that I only used the service once in a blue moon, but so what? You just don’t seem to be able to take valid comment – and look for excuses to discount it, but I really don’t understand why unless you think that you’re the only person entitled to comment on this ferry service.
          If something clearly needs to be done in a different way in the future, why such reluctance to have open discussion about it? Your references to Michael Russell, to people wanting a reliable service, and to the existing service being unable to cope with summer weather, are in your mind linked to my comments? How?

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  21. If! the contract were ever to be cancelled to Argyll Ferries, how would any other company run the service any better? I also wonder what would have been the outcome if Western, or any of the other offers had been accepted, as they all were going to use passenger only boats.

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    • My comments are not linked to yours because your comments are not linked to this “thread” which is about the current service.

      On many internet discussion groups you would be directed to start your own thread where, with like minded people, you could discuss the pros and cons of the gangway on a service that ceased a year ago.

      I don’t recall anybody either in public in letters or even here on this blog having a serious problem with the previous gangways – apart from you who hardly ever used it.

      On the other hand Michael Russell had to deal with over four hundred people who in his own written words were “angry” and “furious” with the passenger only service and the failure to deliver the promised vehicle ferries.

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    • Without the vehicle ferries promised by the Government the tendering process was pretty much doomed whoever won. Especially with the nonsense contract Transport Scotland produced.

      It is of course possible to run a reliable passenger only service, but you need large vessels such as the Maid Class.

      It would be interesting to know if any of the other bidders proposed using larger, and hence reliable vessels, and why they were rejected i.e. was it just cost?

      CalMac don’t come up smelling of roses in this. They are supposed to be a professional ferry company yet they put forward vessels they knew would not be able to operate reliably in the weather on this route – the Ali Cat already had a track record. I suppose since they are run by the government they did not really have much choice. However as professionals they should have been voicing concerns to their masters – perhaps they did?

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  22. I understand that today’s Dunoon Observer* is carrying a story that between Thursday and saturday last week some 80 sailings weere cancelled by Argyll Ferries.

    80 sailings cancelled. That kinda makes a complete mockery of ‘assurances’ in the Scottish Government again reporte in the Dunon Obserever reported on last week that stated “The unscheduled availability of both vessels now seems to have been addressed with a pattern of satisfactory reliability and punctuality being the norm”.


    * Still going strong apparentlydespite FA’s exclusive about it closing down before Christmas…. ;)

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    • Simon those 80 cancelled sailing will have been deemed to have sailed under the Transport Scotland contract and so the reliability will have been 100% over that period.

      The posters on the bathtubs showing high reliability were funny at first but the joke is wearing thin now.

      No doubt we will hear excuses that Dunoon was hit yet again with extreme weather. My recollection was that people were out sailing and the weather was not great but nothing exceptional.

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  23. I see that Alex Salmond has (again) stated that his Government want passenger/vehicle ferries on the route. He stated this several years ago on the radio! The saga continues.

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    • Maybe Alex Salmond will do it this time.

      One thing is for sure these bathtubs are going to fail continuously, there is nothing politicians can do about the weather, and they are not coping even in the summer. The issue is going to run for another five years, right through the referendum unless, unless he gets it sorted.

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  24. Ferryman – can you explain this? “Simon those 80 cancelled sailing will have been deemed to have sailed under the Transport Scotland contract and so the reliability will have been 100% over that period.”

    Surely not?

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    • The contract is available here;

      It states;
      “A sailing which either does not commence or does not complete in accordance with the Timetable as a direct consequence of a Relief Event shall be deemed to have been completed for the purpose of the Performance Measure for Reliability.”.

      “Relief Event means:
      the cancellation of any sailing or the late arrival of any sailing if the cause of the cancellation or lateness is attributable to adverse weather, tidal conditions or any other safety factor (but not the non-attendance of suitably qualified and experienced staff) outwith the Operator’s reasonable control which would in the Master’s opinion have made the sailing or arrival in accordance with the Timetable unsafe or impractical and where such cancellation or lateness (or the effects thereof) could not have been avoided or mitigated by the exercise of due diligence by the Operator;”

      The clincher in terms of Transport Scotland’s incompetence is that nowhere in the contract does it state what kind of weather the ferries should be able to run in and nowhere in the contract does is specify vessels tonnage etc. to ensure they are up to the weather.

      As a result you can literally put a rowing boat on this root. At the first breeze the Master can declare he cannot row across safely and the crossing will have been deemed to have been made!

      If you read the contract you will also note there is no mention of relief vessels. As a result this service is doomed to 4 weeks of half service every year as boats are maintained. There is also no mention of the Cowal Games. Without a relief vessel this service does not have the peak capacity required to deal with the numbers of people who do want to come on foot to the games. Even in the days of the streakers, which could carry 500 people each, there were lengthy queues right from the pier front to the road.

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  25. I thought there might be more comment on this but guess what when I looked the topic had disappeared from the most commented list.

    This seems strange since it is being commented on frequently and must be amongst the top three.

    Surely Newsroom (aka soapbox) is not censoring the blog?

    I know the newsroom (aka soapbox) supported the introduction of a passenger only service but surely they would not suppress a post just because it referenced the actual contract? That must just be coincidence.

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  26. Kilcreggan Ferry concerns deepen as the following notice was in Today’s Herald

    Notice in Glasgow Herald – Friday 6th July 2012

    On 28 June 2012, a petition was presented to Glasgow Sheriff Court by the Advocate General for Scotland for and on behalf of the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs craving the Court inter alia to order that Silvers Marine (UK) Ltd, 231/233 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5QY (registered office) be wound up by the Court and and to appoint a liquidator. All parties claiming an interest must lodge Answers with Glasgow Sheriff Court, 1 Carlton Place, Glasgow within 8 days of intimation, service and advertisement.
    I Massie
    Officer of Revenue and Customs
    HM Revenue and Customs
    Debt Management & Banking
    Enforcement & Insolvency
    20 Haymarket Yards
    for Petitioner
    Reference 1056065/ARG

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