Kay Bee: your description of pontoons seems …

Comment posted MCA serves Argyll Ferries with improvement notice by Robert Wakeham.

Kay Bee: your description of pontoons seems to be of the flimsy lightweight flexible type for small boats & yachts in sheltered harbours, rather than the traditional heavyweight pontoon landing stage structures that are customary for passenger ferry use – ignorance or just massaging the facts to fit your own prejudices?

Robert Wakeham also commented

  • Calling yourself ‘ferryman’ suggests that this is probably your main interest, so I’m surprised you don’t care about the set-up at Gourock – or are you ‘car driver’ more than ‘ferryman’, and passengers can go take a running jump?
  • Ferryman, how would you propose a ‘service that works’ could adequately provide for easy transfer of foot passengers, including elderly and disabled, between ferry and train at Gourock?
  • That’s at Dunoon; and at the other end?
  • I would have thought that it was obvious to most people that linkspans are designed to expedite vehicle traffic whereas pontoons are designed to make life easy for people. It was because MacBrayne’s Islay service hadn’t upgraded to vehicle ramps that Western Ferries was set up in the first place, and here we are goodness knows how many years later with a similar lack of decent facilities, this time for passengers, on the Gourock – Dunoon route – and, for that matter, on the Gourock Kilcreggan route.
  • I think you’re creating a problem – I think ferry pontoons are designed to cope with the size of boats and the degree of exposure. Pontoons don’t behave like boats.

Recent comments by Robert Wakeham

  • McGrigor says assumptions on EU membership are insecure
    Malcolm – like it or not, there’s a logical case for arguing that the high price of windy electricity in an independent Scotland would actually be in Scotland’s favour, compared with the even higher price of electricity south of the frontier after it’s inflated by the costly long term guarantees doled out to the developers of replacement nuclear power. Unless, perhaps, fracking really does become acceptable.
  • Candidates and issues in Oban South and the Isles by-election
    So, h20, in your book criticism of politics is unacceptable if you don’t live in that constituency?
    I wonder what sort of world we’d be living in if you were in charge.
  • So much for JOMO as businesses demand Scottish Government enables mobile phone mast upgrades
    Yes, there were certainly people with justifiable objection to valleys being flooded – but the overall intent was public investment in hydro power and a distribution network for the common good.
    And I’m not sure that what happened leading up to 2008 was as simple as ‘an entire nation falling asleep at the wheel’ – the entire nation wasn’t at the wheel, it was the movers and the shakers in the political and financial services firmament.
    I see one of them – Gordon Brown – has just resurfaced.
  • So much for JOMO as businesses demand Scottish Government enables mobile phone mast upgrades
    The story of bringing electricity to highland communities is surely an example of the ‘one nation’ philosophy at work, as was Thatcher’s use of oil revenues (however much this is now condemned).
    But the enrichment of the London and Ednburgh financial communities, at the expense of the financial health of ‘the common man’ since 2008, is surely an example of the reverse.
  • Indy and the Monarchy
    How d’you mean, ‘protecting the unspeakable’?

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80 Responses to Kay Bee: your description of pontoons seems …

  1. What a load of absolute tosh. The streakers carried 60000 vehicles a year and made a profit on the vehicle aspect of their service and that despite the ludicrous restrictions on the service they were allowed to operate – in effect a subsidy for Western Ferries the most profitable ferry company in the world with a return on investment of over 30%.
    An unrestricted vehicle and passenger service able to operate in all but the worst weather conditions would more than double the vehicle profit and give a much needed boost to Tourism to the Cowal peninsula. The report that was done into the service some years ago concluded this with both CalMac and WF agreeing that boats of a certain size and tonnage are needed to cope with the weather experienced on the Clyde upstream of Cloch Point. Experts say at least 500GRT would be required not the laughable 75 and 175 of the AliCat and Argyll Flyer.

    As to pontoons they will not improve the crossing one iota and with the excessive following wake made by these boats as they come into the berth will become decidedly alarming to the elderly , the disabled and young children if not to other Adults and should be resisted at all costs as should the maunderings of For Argyll which if ever there was a inappropriate title this must be a gold medallist..

    Finaly it is the Scottish Government declared policy to reduce our Carbon emissions so driving round the 89 miles by road to Gourock is hardly consistent with this.

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  2. Kay Bee: your description of pontoons seems to be of the flimsy lightweight flexible type for small boats & yachts in sheltered harbours, rather than the traditional heavyweight pontoon landing stage structures that are customary for passenger ferry use – ignorance or just massaging the facts to fit your own prejudices?

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    • No I wasn’t. My point was that the wake following the boats will move any pontoon unless it is made of excessive tonnage and the concommitant excessive cost. The wake made by these boats affect Western Ferries at 480GRT. And in any case my main point was it will not improve the crossing experience one iota.

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      • I think you’re creating a problem – I think ferry pontoons are designed to cope with the size of boats and the degree of exposure. Pontoons don’t behave like boats.

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        • The current linkspans go up and down with the tide to match the boats, better than pontoons. Argyll Ferries contracted to use the linkspans, why should £3-4m be spent on pontoons?

          Pontoons are not going to change the fact that the bathtubs cannot cope with the weather and Argyll Ferries are having to bend/ignore the rules to get even the current dismall performance.

          you are also changing your position by admitting pontoons need to be designed for the size of boat and, since the “fine, clear, settled” weather Ali Cat is to be replaced, we don’t know what that will be.

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          • I would have thought that it was obvious to most people that linkspans are designed to expedite vehicle traffic whereas pontoons are designed to make life easy for people. It was because MacBrayne’s Islay service hadn’t upgraded to vehicle ramps that Western Ferries was set up in the first place, and here we are goodness knows how many years later with a similar lack of decent facilities, this time for passengers, on the Gourock – Dunoon route – and, for that matter, on the Gourock Kilcreggan route.

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  3. Quite frankly guys, the article quite accurately depicts the current situation. Having lived in and outside of Dunoon, I fail to see a problem with the current service level from either ferry service. This subject has received way too much attention and your local politicians need to focus their efforts on more worthy causes.

    How about trying to bring some life back to the town? It looks like you also could give some attention to growing social problems such as youth drinking.

    Stop bitching about issues that are out of your control and work on attracting new businesses and improving access to the natural beauty of Argyll. Sit back on the ferry and enjoy the scenery that you have been blessed to take for granted.

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    • “How about trying to bring some life back to the town”.

      Have you thought why there is so little life in the town?
      Could it be that Dunoon is a very expensive place to get to? Cowal has been strangled by lack of open competition on ferry services.

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      • Rubbish – Ideally ferries would be free – to remove the ‘cost barrier’, but to say that Dunoon has been strangled by lack of open competition in ferry services is just not credible, and the only way to completely remove the barrier effect of the Clyde would be to provide a tunnel.

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          • Gus, you seem to be stuck in some sort of dismal, embittered, timewarp. I don’t know how many others share your views, but if they’re seen as representative of public opinion in Dunoon then God help the place.

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          • Couldn’t agree more. Almost as much rubbish as For Argyll which if ever there was a misnomer that takes the Gold Medal.

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  4. Charles H; I share your views, but I wonder if the current situation is in anyone’s control? the dire mismanagement of the neighbouring passenger service from Gourock to Kilcreggan makes me think that what’s missing is a local transport authority committed to encouraging a really good passenger ferry system, with the economic and social benefits that would bring – and public opinion is surely needed to push the government toward this, given its silence in recent months.

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  5. KayBee … If size equates with safety then why don’t the RNLI operate 500 GRT boats ?
    Discomfort does not necessarily equate with risk. Bob Wakeham is right, as there are far more complaints about rough crossings from people in Dunoon and Kilcreggan than from the inhabitants of Out Skerries or Utsira, both places with far more exposed crossings.

    Ad perhaps you could elucidate on the ” ludicrous restrictions ” imposed on Calmac.

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    • Well both of those places have car ferries don’t they? Doesn’t the MV Filla take 25 cars, she looks pretty fit?

      Unfortunately here both the bathtubs have to call a halt when WF are running to timetable.

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    • Mr Blue it may have escaped your notice but the RNLI do not run passenger ferries. They are an emergency service. Their job requires fast responses from boats that are land launched quickly in most cases and the sheer cost of building and running a boat of 500GRT at the speeds required would be prohibitive.
      The ludicrous restrictons imposed on Cal Mac were that it was only allowed to operate hourly and had to finish just after 9pm. Hardly conducive to being able to operate a competing service with an operator free to set their own frequency and timings. This restriction was imposed at the time WF was set up to allow them to establish themselves. A Thatcherite idea I understand based on her privatisation agenda.
      The MV Filla serving the Skerries has a displacement of 560 tons carries 30 passengers and 9 cars is partially in the lea of the prevailing winds and Atlantic swell and due to its size is capable of operating in considerable weather conditions unlike the much lighter “bath tub” boats who stop in as little as force 4 or 5 depending on wind direction in inland waters!

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  6. I think this article completely misses the point. The MCA has deemed that it is not safe to run this ferry withiut a liferaft or rescue boat other than in favouable weather conditions There for it has been running outwith its licence when in bad weather. Management chose not to tell the skippers about the restriction and instructed them to record the forcast rather than the actual weather conditions. If the boat stuck to its restrictions there would have been lots more cancellations which would have been bad for perfomance figures. This is not about politics this is about public.safety. If there was a serious incident and god forbid llives lost this webite would be kicking up a stink. The fact that Mike Russell and Sandy Ferguson have exposed this before anything happened should be applauded,
    my wfe and kids have travelled on this regularly and sometimes in really rough weather. I am raging that their lives have been put at risk and that the company wouldnt have been insured. uncomfotable versus unsafe? Ithink i will let the MCA decide, not For Argyll who has no expertise on the matter. This is a very poorly researched article The Chief of Cal Mac should get his jotters.

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    • Argyll Ferries deny flatly that there are safety risks involved in this matter.

      We are satisfied that we have presented an account of the situation which is objective and fair.

      This situation is ridiculously overheated. It is not being helped by the sort of irresponsible political rabble rousing we stay clear of carrying. This is a time for cool reason not screaming headlines.

      There is also the issue of personal responsibility. No one is half-nelsoned onto a ferry. Anyone with personal reservations about the comfort of any upcoming passage cannot complain if they go ahead, choose to travel on it and are not happy with the experience.

      On the matter of service cancellations, Argyll Ferries has been damned if it sails and damned if it doesn’t.

      This is the dangerous Catch-22 attack strategy of its embedded opponents – who should think carefully about the consequences of their manufactured hysteria.

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        • Puffer is 100% correct. The MCA have said that Argyll Ferries are not complying with the restrictions imposed on them, that is a safety issue.

          There are are plenty of people around Dunoon who say they will not or cannot sail on the vessels. Also lets not forget that the “incident” Newsroom mentioned relates to the AliCat several years back where several people said there were near fatalities disembarking from the AliCat. Questions were actually raised in the House of Commons about the “incident”.

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      • Newsroom – I have never read such uninformed drivel!

        “sort of irresponsible political rabble rousing we stay clear of carrying”

        It is such as your original post that creates this, and is surely the reason for your very existence.

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      • Newsroom (aka soapbox) people have to get to their work or lose their jobs, many don’t have any choice but to use the bathtubs if they run.

        The Government decided, for reasons that are completely obscure, not to honor their promise to provide vehicle ferries. Fair enough, but why were they so incompetent that they could not deliver a reliable and safe passenger service?

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      • @Newsroom

        You say: “There is also the issue of personal responsibility. No one is half-nelsoned onto a ferry. Anyone with personal reservations about the comfort of any upcoming passage cannot complain if they go ahead, choose to travel on it and are not happy with the experience.”

        Yet you can’t expect the average person that uses this service to be an informed mariner. I think the people that use the boats quite rightly think they should be able to trust the judgement of the far more experienced crew/skipper/management that operate the ferries. I’m sure they expect that if it was dangerous then they’d not be running. This may not be the case but this isn’t a call the passengers should have to be making.

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        • I have a great deal of sympathy with the skippers of the boats. They have been given totally inadequate vessels for the job they are being asked to do.

          To try to keep the service running, at even the poor level it does, they seem to have been bending or ignoring the rules.

          If an accident happens, and all it needs is somebody to fall over and break an arm/leg/hip, then it will be the poor skipper who carries the can because you can bet Transport Scotland and CalMac will all point the finger at him when the HSE and MCA swarm over the place.

          I understand its being said the AliCat is uninsured if she operates in conditions that cause more than moderate pitching or rolling because she would be operating in breach of the prohibition, is that correct?

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  7. “The 1600 service includes a 360 turnover … ” there are some things the RNLI do that wouldn’t be missed on the trip to Dunoon/Gourock. [Pardon for saying so but many of us despaired of the RNLI's bloated boat expenditure which we thought may cripple the organisation, and now are thrilled, even, at the successful launch of the Shannon class at £1.5m each.]

    The requirement to log weather data has been a requirement of all mariners for some years. To put this in perspective, the crossing is approx 5 nautical miles but, the requirement must be met. I would not have thought that the MCA would have served an improvement notice over such a trangression; it suggests a need to find something wrong, anything, and for what or whose purpose?

    I would have thought that the passengers would neither be impressed nor troubled by the mooring of the boat at either place. Taking a boat astern into a mooring is almost the norm and most captains that I know become so experienced at these manoeuvers that they can almost do it blindfold.

    A pontoon mooring would help but so would bow thrusters and, probably, be cheaper and more practical for the weather you might experience.

    Finally a 75t catamarran would experience some serious movement beam on to a SW gale and so would much larger ships especially with wind against tide. People who are susceptible to illness at sea and where the weather is wet and miserable and are below decks, experience the motion far worse and are almost invariably ill with all of the consequences eg panic.

    So, why all the furore?

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      • No. Just a passing thought. It’s quite subtle – the name, Shannon, which is in Eire and reminds those who need reminding that the RNLI have been operating in the south throughout the troubles.

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          • 1600 service, operated by a lifeboat complete with self-righting capability after capsizing, ie a 360* roll, I presume! All lifeboat classes are named after rivers – Severn, Tamar, Derwent, etc.

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          • I did wonder, but just what the connection is – apart from water and boats – escapes me.
            The last time I heard of a rollover it was a previous Port Askaig lifeboat – in years gone by – and the fairly new boat did what it was supposed to and righted itself, but was disabled because the comms aerials got torn off in the process; the designers learned from their mistake. That particular event required crew reports, and someone was hesitant to record they thought the waves could have been up to 100′, but this was later confirmed by a rescue helicopter attending the same incident. I think it was way out near Barra, after the local lifeboat was disabled by a ‘rollover’ because it was an older design that used airbags to self-right. I might be confusing two different incidents.

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  8. puffer needs to check facts ali cat does have liferafts, no lifeboat but niether does western ferries lives at risk i dont think so

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  9. As usual Newsroom (aka soapbox) does a shallow unresearched and biased piece on the Dunoon ferries. Newsroom states the Improvement Notice relates to “record keeping”, well in a peripheral sense that is true.

    Actual news sources report that the MCA stated “Whilst daily weather forecasts were recorded in the ship’s deck log actual weather conditions experienced, and the vessel’s response to those conditions, were not being recorded.” . The Coastguard agency also found that a number of AliCat’s masters were “not fully aware” of the strict conditions attached to her operation on the Firth of Clyde.

    Those conditions have been public knowledge for several months. They are that the AliCat should only sail in conditions which are “fine, clear and settled” and that which do not cause more than moderate pitching and/or rolling.

    It is therefore extremely damming that the masters didn’t know of the conditions and that the weather forecast rather than actual conditions were being recorded.

    Newsroom (aka soapbox) then prattles on about pontoons. I am sorry but if the sea conditions mid Firth will cause the bathtub to pitch and roll roughly or violently then pontoons will not help. Neither will pontoons disperse fog, nor will they settle the weather. All of which are conditions that prevent the Ali Cat sailing.

    Before we fixate on the AliCat let us not forget the Argyll Flyer, the other bathtub, is responsible for over a third of the cancellations, so she is not much use either.

    Newsroom (aka soapbox) talks about subsidy. The current appalling passenger only service is subsidised. The vehicle portion of the former reliable service was unsubsidised.

    Finally Newsroom (aka soapbox) states “We do not doubt that there have been passages where some passengers have been frightened and have cried out”. This is supposed to be PUBLIC SERVICE TRANSPORT when was the last time you were on a bus, train or taxi when passengers were crying out in alarm? The reason being that the operator of the vehicle you were in was “not fully aware” of the restriction under which it was supposed to operate.

    Lets think ahead a little here folks. The MCA have not gone in all guns blazing – yet. The master’s were not fully aware of the restrictions – well they are now. Weather forecasts were being recorded rather than actual sea conditions – well presumably the real sea conditions will now be recorded.

    Given that the AliCat can only sail in fine clear settled weather does that not mean the AliCat is going to stop sailing for the winter fairly soon?

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  10. Wow ! Ever thought maybe you are expecting too much? Weather is a natural phenomenon that must be anticipated but cannot be controlled. How big a ferry should we ask for? One that can run in the worst storm? The cancellation numbers I have seen are minimal. If the conditions on a specific day are uncomfortable for you, STAY HOME.

    When you choose to live in a remote area, you subject yourself to the surrounding conditions. For example, if you live in Alaska, you can’t bitch because the small planes that service the area can’t fly in a storm.

    These are choices people, you can control where you live and work. If you decide Dunoon is your home, learn to live with your choice.

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    • You ask for ferries big enough to provide the service they are supposed to deliver. This is a commuter route, people use the ferries to get to and from work, they cannot stay at home.

      The current ferries are cancelling massively more sailings than the previous service and are completely off at times when WF are running to timetable. Both of them are totally unsuited for the purpose for which they are being used.

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  11. This issue was raised by a retired master mariner and former Calmac Marine Superintendent.
    Unlike FA he has extensive knowledge gained from practical experience.
    Unlike FA, he knows what he is talking about.
    The highly partisan, not to mention patronising, approach taken by FA on this issue does it little credit.
    Nor does it benefit from presenting its highly coloured opinions as facts.
    For instance: ” This (the Calmac service) became unsustainable financially, in European Law and in competition law.”
    There is nothing in European law to prevent an unsubsidised vehicle service.
    This has been proven, and has been common knowledge for some time. Why do you persist in saying the opposite?
    Equally, the Calmac was rendered unsustainable because of the restrictions placed upon the service. (not to mention some of the bizarre operational practices of the company on the route, such as abolishing onboard ticketing on so-called ‘security grounds’).
    As I understand it, the vehicle-carrying part of the service actually made a profit.
    It absolutely does not follow that it would be impossible to run profitably two competing vehicle/passenger services betwen Cowal and Gourock.
    On what evidence do you base your contemptuous dismissal of this?
    What is clear is that any passenger-only service will require the taxpayer to bail it out for evermore, and larger and more seaworthy passenger ships can only increase the pain on the taxpayer.
    A bit of grown-up reporting on this wouldn’t go amiss.

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    • Surely rather a negative view of public passenger transport, when it’s widely accepted these days that it’s frequently worthy of subsidy on good economic and social grounds.
      It’s also been observed that making passenger services more convenient and attractive (and integrating different modes) can do wonders for the numbers of people travelling – and for increasing numbers of people can be preferable to using their cars.

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      • ‘Widely accepted’?
        ‘By whom’?
        ‘Observed’?
        By whom?
        This is a lousy service by any measure, and that’s been widely observed and accepted.
        If that represents ‘a negative view of public passenger transport’, then I suggest that there might be the slightest hint of justification for it.
        There are two options available.
        A passenger only service ‘fit for purpose’ which will require larger and more seaworthy boats to do the job, and which will almost certainly require a higher operating subsidy.
        A passenger-vehicle service – for which the linkspan at Dunoon was constructed in the first place – which, if run on an unrestricted basis will almost certainly have no negative impact on the public purse.
        That’s not a negative view, it’s a statement of fact.

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        • “Will almost certainly have no negitive impact on the public purse. Thats not a negitive view, its a statement of a fact.”

          “Will almost certianly” can only mean that it can not be a statement of fact.

          Perhpas oh ferry joda, you are now able to provide the detailed costings with regards to capital costs, staffing, fuel, insurance, maintenance and harbour dues and then match it to fares and carryings. Only then will you be able to state as a fact that providing a vehicle servicecan be done on a non-subsidised basis.

          Otherwise you are just taking, as usual, total mince.

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          • The ferry action group have just agreed with Alex Neil a review providing the financial details you mention.

            However the last official published accounts of the former streaker service showed the vehicle portion ran at a profit.

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          • Since you chose to personalise the debate with childish insults,then it’s valid to point out that if my views are indeed mince, they match your spelling standards.
            ‘Only then will you be able to state as a fact that providing a vehicle servicecan be done on a non-subsidised basis’.
            Western Ferries have been doing just that for thirty years.
            I rest my case.

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    • Of course the car carrying element made a profit. the taxpayer funded the provision of the boat, the crew, the fuel, the piers, and everything else needed to provide a service. It just so happened that cars could also be carried, as that’s what the streakers were designed to do.

      And in theory, it never made a *profit* as such. It just (allegedly – figures are hard to come by) reduced the overall subsidy by a tiny amount.

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    • A fair summary of that article is that Argyll Ferries can only sail the AliCat if its Master judges conditions are “fine clear and settled with a sea state such as to cause only moderate rolling and/or pitching” is that not correct?

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  12. ” oh ferry joda, you are now able to provide the detailed costings with regards to capital costs, staffing, fuel, insurance, maintenance and harbour dues and then match it to fares and carryings. Only then will you be able to state as a fact that providing a vehicle servicecan be done on a non-subsidised basis.”

    Donald, I think tht your comment is spot on. Only when the actual total running costs including leasing the ships has been worked out, it will then be clear if it is a business that would be financially viable. Then I presume, a.company would have to be found to provide this service!

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  13. Can someone please explain to me how the subsidy would be reduced if vehicles were carried on the route? If a company decided to run a service on this route, would they not be expecting the passenger subsidy to continue at the agreed rate, and if they made a profit on the vehicles, it would go to it’s shareholders? Is this route not now a commercial route receiving a subsidy to run the passenger service, and if vehicles were carried at a profit, then it would be a bonus for the company?

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    • If you take the Streaker, all the costs associated with running it, staff, fuel, maintenance, insurance ship dues etc. were matched against the passenger revenue, hence the loss and the need for subsidy. The only costs matched against the vehicle income were the harbour dues payable on the vehicles and any other additional costs associated with the vehicle element, hence the profit. If the total costs of running the Streaker were split equitably between passenger and vehicle revenues there would have been a loss on the vehicle side as well. But Cowal Ferries could not show that as it would mean that they were subsidising the vehicle element.

      The last set of accounts for Cowal Ferries showed a surplus of £200,000. Therefore if it was not for the vehicle element, it would have cost the taxpayer an additional £200,000k to provide the passenger service using the Streaker. The fact is that the current service now costs the taxpayer only £1.75m per year as opposed to £3.2m. Which proves that is cheaper for all us taxpayers to provide a passenger service with a passenger vessel.

      Expect any introduction of two new passenger and car ferries to vastly increase the cost the taxpayer but if the true costs of providing the vehicle service are hidden in the passenger service, taking cars will reduce the subsidy. Unfortunately for those wanting to see a new vehicle service, the 2009 EU report requires a robust accounting reporting system which will prevent any repetition of what went on in the past.

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      • We don’t have a passenger service now, the bathtubs are too small to operate reliably. It sounds as if Argyll Ferries have only managed to achieve the current poor service by bending the rules – hence the MCA stepping in with enforcement action.

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  14. The passenger service is not ‘commercial’, it is subsidised.
    The EU permits the Government to subsidise the passenger service because it recognised that it is an essential service and the WF/McGills arrangement is not an adequate replacement.

    Unfortunately the current bathtubs are woefully inadequate for the job and connot cope with the weather because they are simply too small. Larger boats are needed to cope with the weather. It then makes sense to carry vehicles as they generate a profit which reduces the overall level of subsidy required. Since Argyll Ferries are run by CalMac who are run by the Government it is taxpayer who gains. If it was a private company then yes, the shareholders would gain.

    Given that we have a professor of economics and a chartered accountant arguing that carrying vehicles makes sense, that the published accounts for the old streaker service showed the vehicle portion made a profit, and that the EU also agreed the vehicle portion made a profit every year for 7 years, the case for carrying vehicles seems pretty solid. Particularly when you consider the streakers were old and inefficient, overmanned, subject to silly ticketing arrangements and hamstrung by a ridiculous timetable.

    Some decent competition on vehicle ferries is what this area has been badly needing fo years.

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    • Any additional subsidy required over £1.75m to provide a vehicle service would be subsidising the vehcile service. A vehcile service would generate additional costs as well as revenue and the costs would exceed the revenue.

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      • The Government already knows it cannot subsidise the vehicle potion of a ferry service.

        Alex Neil is reviewing the finances of the service, he has said the current service is not fit for purpose and that he would like a vehicle service on the route.

        Presumably he would not bother conducting a review if he did not think there was at least a chance that the vehicle portion can be run unsubsidised.

        The current service is clearly inadequate, it was cancelling sailings in June due to the weather. The MCA had to serve a notice on them because they were unaware of the rules they should have been operating under so presumably things will get even worse.

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        • Alex Neil, is reviewing the situation to give himself more time. The ferry review has been going on since 2008, here we are 4 years later and nothing. If he, Mike Russell and Jim Mather wanted to do something about it, then why didn’t/haven’t they done something. They did a study in 1998, 14 years later still nothing.

          Remember Jim Mather made “promises”, the SNP made the tender and Alex Salmond has made “wishes”. But yet nothing.

          Can’t you see how this is going to end.

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  15. “Since you chose to personalise the debate with childish insults,then it’s valid to point out that if my views are indeed mince, they match your spelling standards.
    ‘Only then will you be able to state as a fact that providing a vehicle service can be done on a non-subsidised basis’.
    Western Ferries have been doing just that for thirty years.
    I rest my case.”

    Childish insults……..you used to do that every week in the Standard. And given the time, I could correct the spelling but you will always be stuck with the same misconception.

    I was only pointing out that if you say “almost certainly” this cannot be a statement of fact, unless you are stating that the conditional element of your statements are factual. I will leave it to you to enlighten us.

    “Which if run on an unrestricted basis will almost certainly have no negative impact on the public purse”. The only way to know that, for a fact, is if you have the projected costs and revenues associated with providing the service, including the lease charges. You don’t have these, so therefore there is no evidence to back up your assertion. Therefore I stand by my original assessment of your opinion.

    Provide the evidence in relation to two new car and passenger figures, including capital/lease costs, operating costs and projected revenues which shows that there will be “no negative impact on the public purse” and I will apologise.

    Using Western Ferries as proof is not persuasive when there are fundamental differences between the two routes, harbour dues, fuel consumption, staffing levels, maintenance etc. Also Western uses its own money to invest in new tonnage and not taxpayers. Using your argument, all clothes shops shop just be as profitable as Marks. And one butchers shop should just be as profitable as the one across the road.

    If you think that the state is in a position to hand over, gratis, two new ferries and that it is legal to provide additional subsidy, over and above what has been allocated to provide a passenger only service. Then I suggest that you look outside the window as you are obviously no longer in Kansas.

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  16. I’m glad you said that Western uses ” its own money to invest in new TONNAGE and not taxpayers.” How much of taxpayers money has the privately owned Western received over the years towards their shore facilities ?

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    • I believe it was in the region of £500k, but this has to be compared to the £7.5m spent on Dunoon, which unlike their terminals has never been used once for a vehcile service.

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      • £500k for the LATEST on shore works ? What about over the years and ‘start up ‘grants ? I don’t think that the breakwater and linkspan were anything to do with Calmac.

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  17. Given that both Dunoon and Gourock terminals are publicly owned, and according to numerous people and groups, this route is crying out for a company to come in and run a highly profitable service. It has been stated that there is adequate customers for two vehicle services, and many frequent vehicle users would prefer to use this route. Why then doesn’t someone, or group contact one of the many ferry companies and remind them of these facts? I am sure there would be a least one that would want to build new ships, and start up their own service without any government help, and sit back and reap the profits that are waiting for them. Can anyone point out any valid reasons that this could not happen, as it appears that this is a business opportunity not to be missed. Or am I missing something here?

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      • Brian Souter was approached a few years ago by Neil Kay and he has a keen nose for commerical transport opportunities. He did not even submit a response to the recent tender when there was government money on the table.

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      • The SNP promised two new vessels for the route, a promise which they went back on.

        The tender was for a six year contract, too short a period for a commercial operator to get a return on building new ships.

        The tender period was ridiculously short so nobody could have built ships in time even if they had wanted to. CalMac could have offered the old streakers but they could only use the old pier which was excluded from the contract, thus eliminating them.

        The time from contract award to starting the new service was what 3 weeks – how on earth could somebody supply ships in that time?

        Souter had the good sense not to get involved in a tender for a service which was doomed to failure and thus be damaging to his reputation. The managmeent in CalMac did not have this sense hence they are trying to run a dismal service by bending the rules.

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  18. Remember the millions owed to the tax man by Western Ferries so who is actually helping build their new ferries? you and me because of their tax dodging and failure to pay up when caught!

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  19. @abf – I am sure that it was splashed across all the news at the time, that Western had in fact settled the tax bill in full after the hearing which they lost their case?

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    • We can confirm this because we carried the story. Western settled their tax bill, and had financial contingencies in place against the possibility that they might lose their case.

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      • So WF had money set aside to pay the potential tax bill. Presumably that money gained interest.

        When WF lost the fight with HMRC they then paid several million in back tax. Did they have to pay interest on the tax?

        In the year they paid did they technically make a loss even though they had cash in the bank? In turn does that mean they could then have claimed tax relief on the loss?

        Any accountants out there? Come on Newsroom, why not win that investigative journalist badge.

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  20. @ ferryman – I was actually meaning that if the route was likely to be so profitable, what would prevent a company starting their own service (out with any tender conditions) and provide their own ships etc. I am sure that government, councils, travelling public etc, would welcome them, and provide all assistance they needed. So many “experts” keep telling everyone that the route would would be a viable business, so where are the ferry companies that would benefit from this gap in the travel market? A simple question I think?

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    • They would need terminals to run from. Gourock is owned by CalMac (i.e. the Scottish Government) Dunoon is owned by Argyll and Bute Council.

      WF were given a helping hand both with investment in terminals and by having competition removed through CalMac having its sailings restricted.

      If carrying vehicles across the Firth of Clyde is so unprofitable then WF will not have any objections having their profit margins scrutinised and controlled will they as they are bound to be quite modest and reasonable?

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    • We had been about to publish on the legal. contractual and pricing complexities of the Argyll Ferries service when the inflationist stooshie around the MCA improvement order hit the fan.
      That work will be completed and published shortly.
      In the meantime, this specific issue is painfully straightforward.
      The Western Ferries vehicle and passenger ferry route from Hunters Quay to McInroy’s Point is as direct as it gets, owns its own linkspans and offers shelter at both ends.
      How would any similarly unsubsidised private sector operator run an alternative service from Dunoon town centre to Gourock town centre – and compete?
      The longer journey would cost around 30% more in fuel costs. That is a major hit on costs.
      Such an operator would have to pay dues at each end for using linkspans or slipways owned externally.
      It would have to pass all of these additional costs onto its customer in higher fare prices.
      Passenger fares would have to be higher than otherwise in order to soften the prices charged to vehicles.
      Such a service simply would not survive. Who would choose it in preference to Western?
      Bleating about ‘monopoly’ is feeble minded. Western saw the opportunity in the route it runs, had the initiative and the know how and have made this service work and work well – as a private sector investment.
      Vehicle traffic does not need to travel from town centre to town centre. Provided it can get across the Clyde as cheaply and quickly as possible, it can drive to the town centres a couple of miles away under its own steam – if that is indeed where it wishes to go.
      Foot passengers need to travel town centre to town centre – and to have quick and easy access to public transport at either end.
      There is absolutely no commercial logic in a private sector vehicle and passenger ferry service between Dunoon and Gourock town centre.
      If there were, the simple fact is that an entrepreneur would already be doing it. Where there is clearly money to be made, there will businesses ready to make it.
      As Dunoon Lad keeps asking, ‘Where are they then?’
      The answer is that they aren’t there and won’t be there because this is not a commercially viable route without public sector subsidy.
      Even if this were likely – and it is not – why should the taxpayer subsidise a service Dunoon does not actually need? And when it already has a menu of ferry services other places can only fantasise about?

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      • Alex Neil is conducting a financial review, which I am sure will be more detailed and accurate than any debate here.
        For me the vehicle ferries are part of the public transport network, like a road, bridge or tunnel. I would like competition. If there is no competition then there needs to be regulation of the private monopoly.
        So if Alex Neil delivers a vehicle service fine, otherwise there needs a reliable passenger only service (i.e. bigger boats) and to be financial control over the essential public transport vehicle route.

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      • Newsroom….what’s being feeble minded complaining about a monopoly ? Is that not what Western now enjoy ? The SNP killed off Calmac Dunoon-Gourock vehicle ferries in favour of a private company.
        I thought we would not hear the expression ‘Tartan Tories’ label attached to the SNP ever again but apparently it does still apply today.
        Newsroom obviously is not a regular user of Western Ferries. You cannot compare the services offered by Western against the Calmac vehicle service that we had. As I have said on here before, Western only come out top on the frequency of service….nothing else, plain and simple. I’m certain that the good people of Gourock will not have welcomed the extra traffic on their very congested main street. Likewise between HQ and Dunoon. You can always tell when a WF is unloading, driving through Kirn becomes a nightmare !!

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        • George you are making a very simple and straightforward point that Newsroom (aka soapbox) just has not grasped.

          Most of the traffic going to and from McInroy’s point goes via Gourock. Most of the traffic going to and from Hunter’s Quay goes via Kirn.
          For a lot of people the town centre route was better at both ends, it cut congestion and travel time and the cost was comparable.

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  21. There is a large sign saying the passenger service will run from the linkspan at the old pier for a week from 23/July.

    This must surely torpedo any further nonsense about spending £2M to install pontoons in Dunoon.

    The bathtubs will be able to come alongside much more easily to the old pier. It keeps the listed pier in use as a working pier, and passenger facilities are already in place.

    What possible additional benefits would pontoons confer to justify spending £2M ?

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      • I have no idea about Gourock I guess the taxpayer can fork out £2M there for pontoons so that Transport Scotland and CalMac can claim to have made “improvements”. The bathtubs still will not sail in what is normal weather for the Firth of Clyde though.

        The current bathtubs cost £2M. Pontoons at Dunoon, which now clearly serve no purpose, would have cost £2M, pontoons at Gourock will also cost around £2M.
        So those in power, for some obscure reason, seem happy to throw away £6M (plus how much per year in running costs) on a service that does not work rather than invest in seaworthy vessels providing a reliable service.

        Where is the logic, where is the common sense, where is the acting in for the public good?

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        • Ferryman, how would you propose a ‘service that works’ could adequately provide for easy transfer of foot passengers, including elderly and disabled, between ferry and train at Gourock?

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          • Er … they would be able to travel between Gourock and Dunoon? Is that not their main objective?

            Can you point me towards any discussions that took place previously where the elderly and disabled were complaining about the difficulties getting between the streaker service and the train?

            They certainly are complaining now. They are saying they are missing hospital appointments, they feel unsafe and even unable to travel on the bathtubs and they have even taken Alex Salmond to task on the issue on national radio.

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  22. Calling yourself ‘ferryman’ suggests that this is probably your main interest, so I’m surprised you don’t care about the set-up at Gourock – or are you ‘car driver’ more than ‘ferryman’, and passengers can go take a running jump?

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    • I travel regularly as both a vehicle and a foot passenger.

      Loss of the Streaker service has made my travel both as a foot passenger and as a vehicle driver worse.

      If the bathtubs don’t run I don’t care if there is a gold plated moving walkway in Gourock taking me direct from the boat to the train – it is of no use.

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