More facts on Argyll ferries Gourock Dunoon service

Jamie McGrigor MSP has tabled a series of written parliamentary questions at Holyrood to which the Transport Secretary Keith Brown has replied.

These questions and answers clarify the positions on:

  • the contractual position of the Scottish Government with Argyll Ferries on the issue of additional funding  for replacement boats or operational requirements
  • the scope of the proposed feasibility study into ferry services between Gourock and Dunoon proposed by Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil
  • subsidies for Argyll Ferries for this passenger ferry service
  • passenger numbers for Argyll Ferries service to date

Jamie McGrigor ahs been assiduous in harvesting factual information on this matter – which should always helps to clear the fog.

Below are the texts of the parliamentary questions and answers described above.

Contractual implications for any additional funding for replacement boats

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT WRITTEN ANSWER
19 July 2012
Index Heading: Transport Scotland
Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government  whether its public service obligation contract with Argyll Ferries for a passenger-only service between Gourock and Dunoon allows it to (a) provide additional funding to Argyll Ferries (i) for operational requirements and (ii) in order to acquire replacement vessels and (b) vary the terms of the contract.

(S4W-08554)
Mr Keith Brown MSP :
This information is already publicly available. Our contract with Argyll Ferries Ltd for the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service is on the Transport Scotland website.

Information on proposed feasibility study

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT WRITTEN ANSWER
19 July 2012
Index Heading: Transport Scotland
Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government  whether it will publish the scope of work prepared for the proposed feasibility study into ferry services between Gourock and Dunoon.

(S4W-08558)
Mr Keith Brown MSP :
Yes

Subsidies to Argyll Ferries for Gourock Dunoon service

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT WRITTEN ANSWER
19 July 2012
Index Heading: Transport Scotland
 Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government  what annual subsidy is payable to Argyll Ferries in respect of the six-year public service obligation contract for a passenger-only service between Gourock and Dunoon.

(S4W-08559)
Mr Keith Brown MSP :

Please see the information in the following table:-

  • Contract year (July-June) 2011-12; Grant £1,166,626; Fuel cost £436,187
  • Contract year (July-June) 2012-13; Grant £1,215,330; Fuel cost  tbc
  • Contract year (July-June) 2013-14; Grant £1,417,344; Fuel cost  tbc
  • Contract year (July-June) 2014-15; Grant £1,427,512; Fuel cost  tbc
  • Contract year (July-June) 2015-16; Grant £1,428,332; Fuel cost  tbc
  • Contract year (July-June) 2016-17; Grant £1,473,386; Fuel cost  tbc

In addition, Argyll Ferries Ltd received £141,991 in start-up costs in Year 1.

Fuel costs, for a quantity of fuel fixed by the contract, are determined around the start of each contract year in line with the price at that time.

Passenger numbers for Argyll Ferries service to date

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT WRITTEN ANSWER
19 July 2012
Index Heading: Transport Scotland
 Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government  how many foot passengers have used the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service in each of the last four years, broken down by month.

(S4W-08562)
Mr Keith Brown MSP :
Numbers of foot passengers using the Government-subsidised Gourock-Dunoon ferry service are set out in the following table.

Until 29 June 2011, a vehicle and passenger ferry service was provided by Cowal Ferries Ltd. Since 30 June 2011, a passenger-only ferry service has been provided by Argyll Ferries Ltd. The figures for Cowal Ferries are for foot passengers only and exclude vehicle drivers and passengers.

  • 2008-09; Quarter One (July-September): 116,683
  • 2008-09; Quarter Two (October-December): 92,539
  • 2008-09; Quarter Three (January-March): 86,362
  • 2008-09; Quarter Four (April-June): 101,253
  • 2009-10; Quarter One (July-September): 114,374
  • 2009-10; Quarter Two (October-December): 88,722
  • 2009-10; Quarter Three (January-March): 85,728
  • 2009-10; Quarter Four (April-June): 97,302
  • 2010-11; Quarter One (July-September): 107,035
  • 2010-11; Quarter Two (October-December): 83,625
  • 2010-11; Quarter Three (January-March): 80,928
  • 2010-11; Quarter Four (April-June): 88,502
  • 2011-12; Quarter One (July-September): 111,292
  • 2011-12; Quarter Two (October-December): 75,171
  • 2011-12; Quarter Three (January-March): 79,470
  • 2011-12; Quarter Four (April-June): Not yet available

For reasons of commercial confidentiality, David MacBrayne Ltd, the parent company of Argyll Ferries Ltd, does not publish monthly carryings information.

Equivalent figures for the Western Ferries service between McInroy’s Point and Hunters Quay are not publicly available.’

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28 Responses to More facts on Argyll ferries Gourock Dunoon service

  1. “The figures for Cowal Ferries are for foot passengers only and exclude vehicle drivers and passengers.” How did they manage to separate the vehicle passenger numbers from the foot passengers?

    How many passengers were lost as a result of becoming passenger only?

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      • Yes they counted people going up the gangway but they had to keep records of the total number of people onboard. I am a bit surprised they differentiated between people in cars and people on foot in the records.

        Their published statistics don’t record the two separately. They just give total passengers.

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  2. Interesting. The figures for passengers using the Gourock/Dunoon service can be found on the Transport Scotland website, and show that in 2009 the total number of passengers was 533,500 and in 2010 it was 499,200. Adding the figures in your article gives a figure for 2009 of 390,711 and for 2010 373,690, quite a substantial difference. From that information can anyone tell us how much cross-subsidy was being given to drivers and passengers travelling in vehicles, as the subsidy was supposed to be only for foot passengers?

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    • A passenger is a passenger and a vehicle is a vehicle.
      The costs of carrying vehicles and passengers were separated. However once you stop carrying vehicles you will also lose a lot of passengers because they are not going to travel without their car.

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        • I am not sure how passengers on coaches were dealt with but two people in a car would present a ticket for the vehicle plus two passenger tickets. You used exactly the same passenger ticket if you were a foot passenger i.e. not associated with a vehicle.

          The ticketing system was designed to discourage customers. A book of ten vehicle tickets (the cheap way to get them) bore the vehicle number and had an expiry date. So if you were a two car family sometimes wanting to use one car sometimes the other you needed two books, and they would expire!

          You had to buy the books of car tickets prior to boarding to prevent terrorism – I am not joking. This increased waiting times.

          The show stopper was that the ferry sailed only once an hour, and for limited hours each day.

          A much better route of course. However statistically, even if you were able to use either ferry service and just got on the next one, you ended up on Western far more often.

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  3. @ferryman “a much better route of course” in what way? Same journey time, Hunter’s Quay nearly always more sheltered than Dunoon, depending where you were going/coming from at the Gourock side was the only preference for most. If you are in a vehicle it doesn’t really matter! So the passenger figures may once again bring up the cross subsidy point of vehicle passengers – should they have been subsidised or not?

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    • The route matters a lot if you take your car over regularly. Most people head to and from Glasgow and the town centre route saved both time and money.

      Currently Western are not coping well with the traffic. If you want to be certain of getting across for a definite time in a vehicle you need to turn up one or two ferries earlier. That is a huge burden if you make the crossing daily.

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      • If making daily journeys, be like a lot of the islanders, Gigha Islay etc, have a car either side and travel as foot passenger, the savings would pay in no time.

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        • Sorry but where would you leave the cars on each side?
          The passenger only service is not reliable so no point in leaving cars there. There vehicle service does not have good parking on either side plus that ferry route requires extra time and money.

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      • Yes, what about the foot-passengers? They would still want to be ferried to the train station as a bus service using the tunnel would not be acceptable. And then the local campaigners would say that it would have to be a vehicle ferry because it was more “economical”.

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        • I don’t see why we can’t build them a nice wee footpath alongside the road in the tunnel :)

          Re: buses. is there some obscure EU directive not allowing them in tunnels now?

          We could actually go all out and build a Chunnel, complete with dodgy trains. Ask the Tories to finance it, they throwing money away! Especially all the money they’ve taken from the poor and sick. They need to spend it somewhere.

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          • Sorry Robert, I was just having some fun. Currently McGills buses are viewed as not being a substitute for the passenger-only service. Therefore if the moaners were to be consistent, then the bus service using a tunnel could not be viewed as substitute, hence the need to continue the ferry service.

            And again, according to some, a vehcile service is more “economic” than a passenger ferry service. Therefore the demands would continue for a vehcile service.

            What a minute, is there not already a road connection to Dunoon?

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          • I have just unearthed a document dating back to May 29th 1941, in an extract from the archives of Colditz Castle, and roughly translated clearly shows a Private Wakeham (of the 2nd Bt Knowitalls) was a fanatical tunneller and after 27 tunnel attempts actually succeeded in escaping. He was believed to have retired to Scotland……

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    • Even a short bridge from Ardentinny across to Coulport would do it for me! Helensburgh would be only 20 mns or so from Dunoon.

      Someone did make a valid point regarding Western being unable to cope with current volumes. I’ve noticed on several instances the dream of catching a planned ferry vapourises in a blink as all queue lanes are full. At least they cover themselves in glory by ignoring timetables and just keep the boats running constantly.

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      • They do ring the cash register as fast as they can.
        However if you want to get to work or the airport what do you do? You do what everybody has to do now, you go one or even two ferries earlier. What is the result of that – seven lanes full for the earliest ferry and cars left behind.

        Western are getting new ferries. What are they doing with the old ones though, are then not for scrap so what will be the actual increase in capacity?

        If you were running a ferry company to make money with no competition would you have queues and run your boats full, or run them part empty?

        Bad news too if you read the Oban Times. The A83 situation is being delayed and they don’t know what to do with HGVs! If even some of those come via the Firth of Clyde the queues will get even longer.

        Anybody know how much an HGV is charged on WF?

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  4. And what about buses ferryman? How do McGills Dunoon to Glasgow buses make money, running a service with very few passengers from Dunoon,and most of them concessionaries? With Western not charging anything for card holders how much are McGills compensated for passengers ? Surely the buses can’t be paying the proper fare on the ferry.

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    • Western Ferries don’t publish their commercial rates so I have no idea what McGills might pay.

      It is also possible that there is some contractual relationship between McGills and WF. I am sure WF would have liked the EU to have ruled that the town centre route did not qualify for any subsidy (even for passengers) so perhaps they setup a loss leader. That is just speculation, and the EU ruled that WF and McGills were not an adequate replacement for the town centre route.

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  5. Pingback: Argyll News: Dunoon ferry services: the supply and demand picture | For Argyll

  6. We are a Dutch coach group that will stay some nights in Dunoon in July. As we have a daytrip to Glasgow, we like to have the shortest way. Is your ferry boat only for footpassengers or is it possible te take coaches?

    Kind regards,

    Leen van Valen

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