Argyll Ferries cannot win – and neither can Dunoon

Last Thursday evening, 7th March, nothing much happened at the Dunoon linkspan – but that nothing much has led to a renewed campaign against Argyll Ferries, the passenger shuttle ferry between the town centres of Dunoon and Gourock.

The skipper left Gourock with a full boat and when he was half way to Dunoon he got a radio call letting him know that the wave height at Dunoon was higher than usual.

He could have turned back automatically – although there had been no suggestion that he should – but in the interests of getting his passengers home for the night he decided to go on, have a look and then, if in his experienced judgment it looked too much, take them back to Gourock.

When he saw the reality at the Dunoon linkspan, it was perfectly manageable to land, if inevitably a bit bumpy for a few minutes as the wave settled after the final approach.

The ferry bobbed up and down, then settled. After the settling, the Captain asked the passengers to wait for a short time until he was happy. To be utterly safe, he waited for ten minutes before commencing disembarkation.

The Dunoon Observer Facebook page has a video of the ferry here  coming into the linkspan. It’s a few seconds worth of footage. You can see the process described above in action – and after the visible settling of the craft at the end of it, it was 10 minutes before disembarkation began.

Argyll Ferries normal practice in disembarking in the slightest of bumpy conditions, is to station one crew member at the head of the short stubby gangway and to station another crew members at the linkspan end.

To ensure safety at all costs, they then disembark in groups of three people, looked after at either end by a members of the crew, assisting and ready to assist.

On Thursday, as a mother and her six year old son disembarked, at the end of the gangway the boy tripped. He was immediately stabilised by the crew member in position and that was all that happened. The boy did not fall. He was never in the water. He was never at any risk.

But, as it happens, this little boy suffers from cancer and was coming home with his mother after having had an MRI scan on the opposite mainland. He was a perfect campaign focus.

This has now been manufactured into a massive media attack on the ferry company, with members of the campaign group fighting a doomed battle to have a vehicle and passenger ferry restored on the town centres service headlined in the local medias as asking ‘Does someone have to die before they get rid of these dangerous boats?’.

The Chinese-whispers story has now become one of sick child hurled into the water by dangerous ferry, passengers terrified by being asked to wait for a few minutes…

There is no mention of an experienced skipper concerned to do what he could – within strict safety limits – for his boatload of passengers. He would have been within his rights simply to turn round mid-channel when he got the radio update; and leave them to transfer to Western Ferries from McInroys Point just south of Gourock; or to stay in Gourock for the night.

The Argyll Ferries skippers are mature professionals. They are also mature professionals who are being unreasonably harried on what is virtually a daily basis because Dunoon’s civic ego feels it has been slighted by being given a passenger ferry service in place of the former, and underused, vehicle and passenger service.

No Argyll Ferries skipper, in these circumstances, is anything but highly  – and actually unhelpfully – risk averse.

These ferries are now not sailing in circumstances where they could and should be sailing – because, properly left to the skipper’s discretion at the time, why would they face more banshee attacks than they have to.

Dunoon has had ferries for how long? Its residents should know that water is not tarmac and that water, in its fluidity, is immediately weather affected where roads are more resistant.

Travelling on water is all about movement. Dunoon has choices other ferry destinations do not. There is a good road to Glasgow and there are bus services. If you don’t like water don’t go on the ferries.

The Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group’s campaign has left the town worse served than it might be. It has resisted the establishment of pontoons for walk on berthing at Dunoon and at Gourock – for the sole reason that it fears that to do so would be an admission that the car ferry was never going to comeback.

It isn’t. Economics, EU subsidy law and competition law are all against it.

The risk the ferry campaigners are now running – and it is a very real one – is that the scare campaign they have run to destroy confidence in the Argyll Ferries passenger service had created a third option for Dunoon.

The campaigners have only seen a binary situation – they’re stuck with the passenger service they feel is beneath them or they somehow get a vehicle and passenger service back into the town centre.

The third option now in the frame is simple. Close the passenger service for good.

This would leave the town’s ferry provision in the very capable hands of the faster and highly reliable service run by Western Ferries, with its three vehicle and passenger boats shuttling between the outskirts of the two towns, from Hunter’s Quay in Dunoon to McInroy’s point in Gourock.

Western have two new boats in building and, a well run and entrepreneurial business that is a good advertisement for private sector provision, are more than capable of adapting to changing needs.

Usage statistics do not justify the luxurious variety and frequency of ferry services Dunoon enjoys, A city dweller could not catch a bus more frequently than Dunoon folk can walk on and off a ferry.

The opportunism and the dishonest manipulation of facts in the unceasing attacks on Argyll Ferries are now very likely to see Dunoon’s town centre no longer troubled by the honourable passenger service it has decided to disdain – and in the interests of an unrealisable demand.

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141 Responses to Argyll Ferries cannot win – and neither can Dunoon

  1. A far more sensible and balanced article than the Cowal Courier, they really were over the top, and as you say jumping on a ‘sick child’ bandwagon.

    Captain Ferguson has a lot to say about irresponsible risk taking, yet he did the same with MV Iona at Tarbert Harris in a gale, berthing the ship in circumstances which could have led to disaster. It’s all in his book….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. This has to be the biggest load of garbage ever printed on forargyll.
    Yesterday I sent in a news report on the incident at Dunoon link span as I was surprised it had gone unreported by FA despite being reported in Cowal Courier and Dunoon Observer.
    This report is far removed from the information I provided to Fa and total distortion of the facts.
    For you to suggest there was any attempt to use the six year old boys medical condition by saying “he was a perfect campaign focus” is an utterly disgusting piece of journalism of which you should be ashamed.

    Did you ask the boys mother for her thoughts on what had happened? did you ask the taxi driver his opinion ? did you take the trouble to contact former Cal-Mac Captain Sandy Ferguson who I believe has written to the MCA to report this “nothing much happened” incident.

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    • Gus: were you on board the Ali Cat at the time or was the basis of your “report” made solely from online resources such as the websites that you named?

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      • I was not on board at the time of the incident, I submitted the report in good faith to forargyll, it was as you suggest a summary from the the reports online from the websites I named.
        What I did expect was some form of professional journalism from forargyll in looking into this matter.
        Instead we got this very typical anti Dunoon rant, I can at least say I have travelled on the ferry on a regular basis often in bad conditions, but never as bad as how this looked in the video.

        How often have you or newsroom used the ferries or any other of the faceless people on here who support this shambles?

        I notice no one has answered any of my questions!

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  3. A small and entertaining challenge for readers.

    Go to Youtube and type in ‘crosswind landing Dusseldorf’. Wait for the Condor second attempt. Enjoy! Feel free to look at other videos – there’s much worse out there, but here’s the thing – all these landings are approved by the relevant aviation authorities.

    In this context the Dunoon Ferry looks positively calm.

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    • When the passengers come to disembark, does the airstair pitch up, down and sideways? The issue here seems to be about dissatisfaction with boarding arrangements rather than the crossing itself, although some people aren’t happy with that either. After 3 decades of not having to hold themselves into their seats on the journey, some now wish for seatbelts and get supplied with sickbags.

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      • I think they have racing harnesses on the Orkney ferry:

        Seriously though, embarkation hazards notwithstanding, having sea legs has to be part and parcel of choosing a lifestyle which depends on sea travel, surely? (Although, I suppose, technically, Dunoon – Gourock doesn’t even qualify as “sea” according Merchant Shipping legislation. And there, perhaps, is the rub in so many aspects of this saga.)

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  4. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of all of these reported incidents, one outcome of the campaign seems to me to be inevitable, and that is that the dedicated passenger ferry will cease and with that will go the 18 hour per day frequent service that some people will by now have become used to.

    If the car ferry is reinstated, and I can’t see that ever happening, the service will certainly be no better than in its final form.

    Given that the predominant nature of the complaints of unreliabilty seem to be commuter related, you may, in the hypothetical case that a car ferry IS reinstated, be landed with a reversion to something akin to the 1960s winter service all year round with, say, the Saturn reactivated to do no more than a commuter oriented return crossing each morning and evening and that’s your lot. Single crew, split shifts, zero depreciation and about a tenth the annual fuel bill of the present service …. maybe it’s a runner?

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    • We agree with your analysis – and we proved it in 2012 when we did a serious job on the usage stats and the combined service volumes and frequencies provided – that Dunooon is heavily over resourced in ferry carrying capacity.
      This is where the campaign is leaving Dunoon genuinely vulnerable to a decision just to withdraw the passenger ferry that the town seems not to want.
      Any and all ferry services are vulnerable to weather disruption, It is in the nature of this form of transport.
      Pontoons would make a substantial difference to passenger comfort in embarking and disembarking at either end. They were on offer and it was the campaigners who rejected the offer on behalf of the town – because they felt it would prejudice their potential success in getting a second car ferry – which, baldly, cannot happen.
      Do the passenger ferry users really not want pontoon access at either end of the route?
      The return fare per vehicle on this route would be higher than Western Ferries; because the passage time is longer than the Western run. Why would someone driving a car pay a higher fare to travel a longer route and deal with town centre traffic at each end of a commute, when Western’s outskirts terminals are only a sneeze away from either town?
      Commuting foot passengers can make a decent sense of the town centres / railhead route but really it makes no sense at all for vehicles.
      Supposing – which really cannot happen – a vehicle and passenger was returned to this route?
      The vehicle side would be little used because Western will always be cheaper and, even in the worst of this shrill campaign, no one has been complaining about the service it provides – because there’s nothing to complain about.
      But the cost of the state running a heavier boat taking heavy losses on the vehicle carrying side simply could not be justified by government – which would, in practice, end up running an extremely expensive service almost exclusively used by passengers on subsidised fares.
      This really is one of the most unintelligent campaigns imaginable and its mischief making in scare stories is damaging Dunoon in very many ways.
      No one can make a longer journey shorter. No one can make the use of more fuel for a longer journey cheaper and less polluting than the fuel necessary for a shorter one. No one can make drivers pay more for a passage than they need to do. And no one can deny that Dunoon is not heavily over resourced in ferry services for its statistically evidenced needs.
      The likelihood now is the loss of the two-boat passenger service – with 60 sailings a day, year round, Monday to Saturday and 30 a day on Sundays. Is this really the endgame Dunoon wants?

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      • Pontoons might make a marginal improvement to the ease of getting passengers on and off but will make no difference to whether the boat sails or not; is that marginal improvement worth the £6+m it will cost to install the pontoons as McKeans report outlined? I don’t think so; without a barrage at Gourock the frequency of weather cancellation will be the same, and such a barrage will increase the pontoon cost by 50+%. The effort put into that report can be measured by the fact that as planned, while the construction work for the proposed pontoon at Gourock is in progress, the ‘Kilcreggan steps’ will be completely unusable; I guess we peninsula dwelling ferry users don’t matter.

        The meally-mouthed excuses that Dunoon has been fobbed off with for 2 years now are a disgrace; either sort the problem out properly, or resign as a government. Regardless of real or perceived safety concerns, the fact people are frightened of using the ferry in anything other than a flat calm means traffic levels will decline, no doubt to be used as an excuse for further service degradation. Pick one of these options and drive it swiftly to completion.

        1. Buy or charter appropriate tonnage to fulfil the contract obligations that are not being met now and improve the piers at either end to ease docking and passenger ingress/egress in inclement weather.

        2. Abandon the service altogether and let a contract for commuter buses between Dunoon and other parts of Cowal and Gourock station; to facilitate this it will be necessary to contract Western to run such extra dedicated services as are necessary to accommodate these buses, which will be timed to leave promptly once the buses are onboard and give them priority for loading and unloading.

        3. Bore a tunnel and never be bothered by weather, ferries or piers again.

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        • Kilcreggan and Dunoon are in broadly similar circumstances – peninsulas with road access but much faster connections with the Glasgow via passenger ferries to the railhead at Gourock.
          It could never be acceptable to penalise one for a considerable time to make a marginal difference to the service for the other.
          A tunnel could not be justified because Western Ferries almost never stops sailing – and when it happens they are invariably the last to stop and the first to start. In bad conditions we sit on AIS to be able to keep people up to date with ferry movement and this pattern at WF is now predictable.
          These are not the times, fiscally, where the Scottish Government is in a position to defend throwing money at tonnage on a route that is the best served in Scotland – even with some weather related cancellations – with provision way in excess of demand.
          Of your three options, Option 2 is becoming progressively the most likely outcome.

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          • The Newsroom is not news only gossip mixed with malicious mis=information.

            Kilcreggen ferry is running fine

            those with comments sit in their darkened rooms in Milingavie and outsirks of Glasgow away from the water on for ferries,

            most of the words here are taken with a pinch of salt and find a strange entertainment as it is often far from truth and a true honest analysis/

            Biased childish slandering is the beginings of this attempt which is now not taken seriously by myself

            a shame

            but there lacks some inspiring human nice endaevour

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          • See the McKean’s pontoon report which is available here and the pontoon arrangement plans here. The report describes the wave height incidence at Gourock as likely to both overtop and damage a pontoon in a winter storm, and my experience is that even on an average winter’s day if the wind is in the quadrant North through to East the Gourock berth is lively and damage to either the boat, pontoon or both is a strong possibility; building a barrage prevents all this.

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        • Western will be taking delivery of 2 shiny new and much larger ships this summer, assuming Cammell Laird haven’t had any delays and the trials go OK. This would theoretically make a service such as I have outlined possible.

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          • From the information I have read, the new ships do not have much more (if any) vehicle capacity than the newer Shuna and Scarba ships. I don’t know about the passenger capacity, but if there are say 2 coaches full of passengers already on board, plus a deck full of cars with passengers, does this reduce the passenger lounge capacity on board? If it does, this will not leave much capacity to take all the Argyll Ferries passengers as well. Or will it? They will be much faster I understand, increasing the number of crossings available during busy periods, but there could still be issues with passenger capacities. Maybe Newsroom could provide more information regarding passenger numbers?

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          • Cammell Laird’s website says the new ships will have 20% more capacity. The existing fleet are certified for 220pax/37cars and 220pax/42cars, so the new ones will presumably carry ~250 pax and ~50 cars, although if the number is limited by the crew size it may stay at 220 pax. They are supposed to be faster as well, which increases the number of crossings possible per hour.

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        • Dunoonlad, what are you on about? Western has virtually no passenger capacity issues! I use it often enough to know that.

          Not sure where you are getting the info OK n Western, i`ve been looking but they are not giving out much info. Care to share?

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          • Jamie – I was commenting on the various issues about the passenger only service being withdrawn as suggested by Newsroom and others. Not sure about the current passenger capacity of the current fleet – around 250 on each ship? If all Argyll Ferries passengers were to use western, plus the coach and other vehicle passengers, would that 250 be enough? I have only read reports from the usual papers and online stories about the new ships, and their vehicle capacities. The only info about passengers has been “enhanced facilities” or something similar, whatever that may mean regarding passenger numbers.

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        • Western coped with all traffic – on foot or in vehicles – over the past three days while the tubs were hiding in Greenock. Western can’t cope? Nonsense!

          Their new boats are to be much the same as the two built at Port Glasgow and fitted with the same engines and thrusters. The increase is size and speed refers to the two that they are replacing.

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          • Jim, I stand corrected. But this is winter, what about the number of passengers in summer? Surely there could be capacity problems then?

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          • We had family visiting last weekend, and commented that they were waiting on the main road for over an hour on Friday night. They have been coming occasionally for years, but have never had to queue on the road before. I know this has become a common occurrence recently, so, can this be classed as coping?

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          • I often get stuck on the M8 in the mornings for 20minutes – I wonder if the Scottish Government will be interested in fixing that? It’s not just a Friday evening either :p

            First world problem!

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    • Because both landing arrangements are cobbled together cheaply, and in the case of Argyll Ferries it was supposed to be temporary.

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  5. Well, Gus, I was on that ferry and it was *nothing* like you describe. Obviously, with you not actually not being on the boat, you have no idea what it was like. That much is clear from your “article”.

    As a member of a local sailing club and as someone who uses the Argyll Ferries daily to commute to work, I can say two things – 1) they’re not fit for purpose as they cannot be relied upon to sail in the weather we have here and 2) disembarking on Thursday was risky and probably should not have been carried out.

    You note that the young boy was ill and this became a focus for the media. Well, shouldn’t it be a point of discussion that a passenger with disabilities cannot safely disembark? The child has balance problems and a visual impairment–*all* passengers must be considered at all times. How would they have got someone with waking sticks off? What about an elderly person who is perhaps frail/unsteady?

    Your off-hand and dismissive attitude is pretty shabby. This isn’t journalism, I’m surprised to see anyone here refer to it as such!

    Dunoon needs a passenger service that connects with the trains. It should be regular and why Argyll Ferries runs, they provide a great service. However, the reliability is the key issue here. We *must* be able to rely on these boats–we need to get to our jobs, hospital appointments, college classes and we need to get to them all on time.

    By all means, challenge the ferry action group to work on this issue, but don’t ever dismiss out of hand experiences of which you have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever.

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    • The “article” is not the report I sent to forargyll.
      If you read the posts above that I have submitted today you should be able to understand that newsroom has totally changed my report for reasons only known to her.

      If you read my comments at 3 above you will see that 1. The article is not the one I sent in. 2. I never at any time said I was on the ferry on Thursday night, 3. I agree with you on every other point you have made.

      I think you need to read again from the top!

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  6. I think you know perfectly well was my point was-the first 15 paragraphs of your original post above are complete and utter nonsense, written by someone who clearly had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. I’m not the first to point that out so you should perhaps consider thinking before you write inaccurate, unsympathetic pieces such as the one above. You’ve put “facts” as one of your tags on it when really there was barely a single fact in there!!

    After you’ve finished discussing the incident you didn’t witness or experience, your piece provides some useful discussion. But it’s all undermined by your response to something you know nothing about.

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  7. Gus, I now see your post saying that the original post isn’t the same as the report you sent in. That comment didn’t show up when I first viewed the article. My thoughts aren’t any different now that I can see this, they’re simply directed at whoever wrote the original article and not you!

    Though I still have to wonder why you’d send in any form of “report” when you weren’t there? Seems a bit odd.

    So yes, all comments above aimed at original poster–presumably the Newsroom.

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    • Thank you for correcting yourself, I did think after reading your comment you had misunderstood who had written the original post.
      Totally agree with you this is not journalism, and this why I have said newsroom should be ashamed.
      You say it seems a bit odd I should send in a ‘report’ when I wasn’t there, maybe so! But as this incident had happened on Thursday night and was reported on both the Cowal Courier and Dunoon Observer on Friday I thought it a bit odd forargyll had chosen to ignore what we appear now to agree was a serious incident.

      Newsroom does invite,- Submit your news – but be warned!

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  8. DB – I read it that the 20% extra capacity was above the ships that they were replacing. This would make them similar size and capacity to the Shuna and Scarba. Yes, as they are faster, this would increase capacity at a stroke.

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  9. What does the word “faster” actually mean in this context? Currently the crossing takes 20 minutes or thereby but the last boat at night crosses in around 10 minutes. All the current boats are capable of going “faster”.

    Are we to assume that “faster” means the economical cruising speed of the new boats will be higher?

    A case of sloppy journalism here. Please confirm what “faster” actually means – as usual the devil is in the detail.

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  10. Newsroom, you discard the tunnelling option too glibly, pardon my bluntness.

    TUNNEL COSTS: Examples of recent Nordic tunnelling projects put the cost of boring similar subsea tunnels of the required length at about £35M – £50M. (The public money recently wasted, frankly, on Calmac’s two very small diesel-electric “hybrid” ferries would have paid half the cost – take your pick, my friends.) Annual operating costs of a tunnel would appear to be around £0.5M. If anyone cares to dispute, objectively, the figures for a tunnel, they’ll be making a useful contribution.

    COSTS OF TRANSPORT STATUS QUO: Taking together the current costs to the entire community (subsidies, AF and WF fares, additional vehicular costs for users of the A83 option), the annual expenditure is easily in excess of £10M per year based on Scottish Government statistics.

    With those figure, you don’t even have to factor in the additional economic benefits to the community to be able to justify a tunnel under any conceivable system of Cost-Benefit Analysis, That’s IF, and only IF, our public sector would be able to deliver it at Nordic costs.

    Some figures and comparisons are worth pondering in this debate.
    Combined passenger carryings AF + WF = 2 million per year (Entire Calmac network, 5 million pax, busiest route WB – Rothesay 750 thousand)
    Car carryings WF 600 thousand (Entire Calmac network, 1 million cars, busiest route Rothesay 150 thousand cars)
    Commercials and buses, WF 40 thousand (Entire Calmac network 112 thousand, busiest Stornoway 16k followed by Rhubodach 15k)

    Put simply, the usage of the Cowal-Inverclyde ferries utterly dominates west coast, indeed, Scottish, ferry carryings. Regardless of the whinging and rambling which surrounds the debate, it has to be recognised that the numbers are vast, and, quite rightly, we are entitled to expect a good service for our £10M per year. Nordic tunnels are justified on the basis of usage figures typically much lower than this. In the Scottish context, the Cowal issue can easily be viewed as being of so large a scale as to warrant some fresh thinking.

    For the present, we’re stuck with ferries. Now, on the one hand, Western Ferries are to be applauded for growing their business to this degree, for the excellent service they provide, such as it is, for the commendable efficiency of their operation (thereby setting a benchmark the state operator seems inexpicably incapable of matching), and for the unsubsidised prop they have provided to the Cowal economy for decades. On the other, having quite rightly fought their corner so determinedly, they have now weakened their inept competitors (Calmac, Cowal Ferries, Argyll Ferries) to the point of total collapse and must now take on full responsibility for the service. Collapse of AF will be hastened by publicity of the type noted at the head of this article, complaints to the MCA, hounding (be it justified or not) of Scottish Ministers, and so on; this is a certainty.

    Western Ferries are now well able to provide foot passengers with an attractive unsubsidised alternative to AF, most likely a properly integrated low-cost bus service. Indeed, were they to do this, they would be entitled to complain about subsidised competition by a state owned competitor.

    If Western Ferries fail to step up to the mark, AND THE POLITICIANS SHOULD BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THIS, no alternative to setting the tunnel planning process running should be brooked. It appears, prima facie, to be technically viable and justifiable by any economic measure. This small squib placed under the WF board might work urgent wonders. Who knows; faced with such an unpalatable alternative, WF might even find it’s economically viable to run some sort of Dunoon ferry…

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    • “Western Ferries are now well able to provide foot passengers with an attractive unsubsidised alternative to AF, most likely a properly integrated low-cost bus service”

      Whilst this is true for casual users it is not true for people commuting on a regular basis. The extra time involved makes the arrangement unworkable for most people. People who commute bring money into the town. The current situation means that those people will tend to leave and new commuters will not be attracted to the area.

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      • Must agree with this as I intend to sell up and move nearer to my work place in Glasgow. I can’t rely on this service or the patience of my employers for much longer. The Thursday night disembarkation was just bizarre, what a way to commute, it felt like being on a scary water based fairground attraction, but of course it’s not funny. Someone certainly could have been hurt. This is a nice place to stay but if you need to commute to work, forget it. As someone who only arrived here about 3 years ago I’d now say it’s a nice place to retire to. The travel problems and the lack of any real prospect of a reliable service to the train station makes me think politicians, and locals in many cases, are not bothered about retaining working people in the area.

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      • Extra time, ferryman? WF’s crossing is 2 miles across; that’s only 10 minutes at a modest 12 knots. I presume that it’s not scheduled as that just now because WF choose, as a matter of fuel saving policy, to cross at a much lower speed. That can be remedied. If it were, the differences you’re complaining about, assuming that a Dunoon-Gourock station bus-on-ferry option were to be implemented, synchronised with train timings, would be a matter of a few minutes of penalty, if any, and definitely not “unworkable”.

        This is not the solution I’d have chosen, but then again, I voted against being in the EU all those years ago. Because we’re in the EU, in which free market philosophies are supposedly sacrosact in combination with the paradox that everything is bound up in red tape, it appears that this eternal saga is what we’re stuck with and that, unfortunately, is that.

        We used to have regulation of bus services. If you wanted to run an (unsubsidised) bus service, the Traffic Commissioners would specify the precise route, timetable, fares and capacity you would deliver, and that included a requirement to operate unprofitable early, late and Sunday services with the perfectly reasonable expectation that, in exchange for an individual route monopoly, these would be cross-subsidised out of the profitable elements of operating that route. If you failed to deliver, the licence for the route would be withdrawn; there were almost always willing competitors waiting to step in. The public were guaranteed a good service, wasteful competition was eliminated and efficient operators were able to earn a reasonable profit. It was a system that worked well. In an ideal world, something akin to this would have applied all along to the Cowal ferry service. Thanks to free market mania and EU meddling, it certainly won’t happen now.

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        • It is unworkable. Even for those trying to commute by car the current situation is a nightmare. People are having to get earlier ferries because they cannot be certain of getting on. This simply makes commuting impractical and it will and is having an impact.

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  11. pm – I have read your post and overall it seems fair, almost logical and potentially feasible.

    But maybe you can answer a couple of questions.

    What is the problem you are trying to address?

    The Dunoon Ferry Users Group are fighting for a Town-centre to Town centre service – how will a tunnel deliver this?

    Where do you propose the tunnel entrances be?

    What evidence have you that Western may ‘fail to step up to the mark’?

    Why do you think that Dunoon, which is not an island, and far from it, would merit a major investment of a tunnel, over islands such as Bute, Islay, Arran and so on?

    A tunnel might well be the answer to a problem that does not really exist.

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    • JB,

      1) For a start, a fairly clear problem is that £2.5 million of public subsidy is paid annually to AF for a service which is continually suspended and therefore fails to meet the needs of the users.

      2) Town centre to town centre via tunnel – a bus, obviously!

      3) I have no idea where the tunnel portals would be except to say that it would be likely to be determined by the geology. The feasibility of the proposal is not significantly compromised by arguments about portal locations.

      4) Western Ferries have worked assiduously for decades to strengthen their position on this route. Their success has put them on the cusp of wiping out the residual competition on Scotland’s busiest, by far, ferry crossing. If they wish to avoid the competition a tunnel would present, then they should, indeed, step up to the mark and offer a solution to the foot passenger problem, properly integrated with their business and to the satisfaction of all.

      5) As my figures, lifted from Transport Scotland’s official data, have shown, Cowal crossing carryings are an order of magnitude greater than almost all the other individual ferry services. I’ve no doubt that a fully detailed cost-benefit analysis (standard practice for all major public infrastructure initiatives) would lead to the conclusion that such a project can be justified economically (providing that Nordic costs can be achieved). I infer that you believe that only islands warrant consideration of fixed links, or perhaps you ridicule the notion entirely, that we replace ferrries with fixed links; I cite Forth, Tay, Erskine, Kessock, etc., etc., bridges, Clyde Tunnel, and so on, in contradiction of that view.

      My main point is that Western Ferries took on the complacent Calmac forty years ago and ultimately won. Good! Perhaps it’s time now to challenge WF’s evident complacency with respect to the operation of a fully integrated transport system vis-a-vis the Cowal crossing because, right now, they don’t run one. The real prospect of a tunnel for competition might help to focus their corporate minds.

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      • Your figures agree with the rough costing I carried out; geology not withstanding the entrance portal on the Gourock side could be placed either next to the waterworks to the north of Cardwell garden centre or to the west of the site of the former Ramada hotel. On the Dunoon side there is limited room in the town; the obvious place is beside the existing pier, but there are considerable planning and engineering issues.

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        • I had a notion for a railway tunnel, extending the Gourock line to a station under Dunoon town centre then rising to follow the coast to Toward, then another tunnel to Bute, with a station under Rothesay town centre.
          And if the Scottish oil industry performs as now predicted, maybe it would be affordable to extend the line through via a tunnel under the Kyles to Tighnabruaich, and thence up the coast to a crossing of Loch Fyne at the Otter, to terminate at Lochgilphead. Proof against storms and landslides, but how much would it change the economic geography of Cowal, Bute and mid Argyll? Would it create an extended ‘commuterland’ for Glasgow?

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          • Or a simpler and much cheaper alternative – extend the Gourock line to a new station at McInroy’s Point. This would resolve a lot, as passengers would only have to get to Hunter’s Quay, and that is all relevant as to where you live.

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          • Extending the railway line to McInroy’s Point would require a similar capital investment to building a tunnel; even doing it the ‘cheap way’, extending on the surface as at Dawlish in Devon would be ~£100m. It would also be very unpopular with Ashton residents and the yacht club! :)

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        • db – it may be worth punching some figures into a calculator tbh, as I don’t think it would be realistically possible for it to emerge anywhere near the shore front (unless it was designed in a large arch with the last 500m or so running under dry land parallel to the shore)

          Apparently tunnels in the EU aren’t allowed to exceed a gradient of 5%. If it’s buried 30m under the water it will still be 30m deep when it hits land. Therefore it would take a further 343m before breakout.

          If 100m offshore the water depth is 30m, it would need to travel a further 585m inland before breakout. If depth was 60m it would need about one km before breakout.

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          • The main channel where it passes the Cloch Lighthouse is over 80 metres in depth, and it passes about half a mile from it.

            I don’t have a calculator handy!

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          • The way it’s done in Norway – for example the Alesund links – is by using spiral tunnels to gain height and yet enable the portal to be located where most convenient to tie into the local infrastructure.

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          • From the ‘thumbs down’ it seems that the real benefits of spiral tunnels are beyond some people’s comprehension – ‘little Scotlanders’? – or maybe just small minds? – or minds so stuffed with political machinations that there’s no room left for constructive thinking?

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      • And maybe, just maybe, Western will up their game when the two new ferries are in service and proved themselves. But then, Western have never been interested in passenger traffic have they? Why change now, and Argyll Ferries are no threat to them. Think back to all the (unreported) secret meetings in the last few months between Western, local Councillors, and the Scottish Government. Also what was the real need for dual linkspans on both sides of the river? In Cal-Mac only Oban has two linkspans. As the old saying goes, “there is no smoke without fire”.

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          • That is what they are currently used for Robert. They did say that they may be used for a dual service I.e. 2 ships leaving both sides at the same time, thus doubling the frequency. The Hunter’s Quay pier linkspan was painted last year. The pier is a listed structure, so as I understand it cannot be replaced, only repaired.

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  12. I travelled on the ferry journey to which you refer on Thursday night as I do regularly. It was no worse than many others I have suffered since the new Argyll Ferries service was introduced.

    The basic difficulty I’m having is commuting reliably and safely from Dunoon Town centre to my work and play.

    We surely don’t need hysterical stories of death defying leaps by sick children or patronising defences of our intrepid, yet health and Safety aware sea captains to highlight the shocking inadequacy of the ferries that now serve our town centre

    I am simply now depressed by the whole debate and with the realisation that we will not enjoy a reliable ferry service again in my commuting life time.

    I have lived in Dunoon for 25 years, brought up my family and generally enjoyed the quite friendly community within commuting distance from my work.

    I am now forced however to put my house on the market and plan to leave after another intolerable winter of missed business and social appointments due to the inability of the ferries to run in anything less than a flat calm. I am leaving bewildered at the mismanagement and politics surrounding something as basic as a reliable public transport link to the town and how we have conspired to cut our own community’s throat in such a ridiculous fashion.

    Does anyone in a position to influence really care or are we all left to vent our spleens and share insults on debating forums?

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    • Thank you Ali, yours is precisely the problem people need to waken up to. As people leave and are not replaced it is going to have a massive effect on the Cowal economy.

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  13. Ali, “I am leaving bewildered at the mismanagement and politics surrounding something as basic as a reliable public transport link to the town and how we have conspired to cut our own community’s throat in such a ridiculous fashion”

    Can we be fair here?

    You just cannot ignore the politics – The SNP promised and failed to deliver. And, ever since then they have contrived to ‘kick this into then long grass’.

    Approving the increase of berthing fees at Greenock means effectively that the game is over – unless these one-track-mind muppets are voted out.

    “We” haven’t cut your community’s throat – the SNP have.

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    • Your absolutely right Simon the blame for this whole fiasco lies with the Snp Government.
      I have to say though the comment by Ali is a sad reflection on how this has driven people to make such drastic choices with their lives after having been lied to by a political party.
      I’m also disappointed so many have taken this post off topic to rabbit on about pontoons and then tunnels,-they have even less chance of being provided than the two ferries promised by the Snp.

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      • ‘ rabbit on’ about practical aspects of a reliable link – which is presumably what you’re interested in, although as Simon says ‘you can’t ignore the politics’ and the temptation to ‘rabbit on’ about politicians’ broken promises, who to blame, etc, etc, ad infinitum is clearly irresistible to a lot of people – to such an extent that it risks becoming an end in itself.

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      • Wrong.

        The blame for this fiasco lies with every administration since the 1960s.

        Very pertinently and more recently, “‘The council and its leader are as actively and directly culpable in all this as the Government and its minister….
        When they did do something here it was to act behind closed doors against the community’s interests, and the opposite of what they were saying in public. But that does not fully explain why the council and this government have behaved in this way. For that you need information that is beyond even the scope of FoI to provide.” Neil Kay 2010 with reference to his FOI request of 2007.

        The revelations uncovered in the FOI demonstrate some very surprising facts about the relationship between LibLab ministers, their officials, ABC, and the management of Western Ferries from 2004 onwards. It can be inferred quite readily from the intentions portrayed in these behind-closed-doors discussions that the Calmac vehicle ferry service was doomed a long time ago.

        The present government and their officials are merely continuing the established tradition of cack-handedness.

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        • Kay has, over the years, bleated on about clandestine meetings between the management of Western, citing ‘public interest’ for his raison d’etre behind his inquiries. But has he (or anyone else) ever bothered to enquire just how many meetings, or letters, or phone calls, were ever made between CalMac officials and the various public bodies? I’d bet there were quite a few!

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          • I’m absolutely certain you’re correct. And the Calmac/Scottish Office correspondence from the time when the underdog Western Ferries were run off the Islay service would make particularly interesting reading.

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          • No doubt there were letters to and from CalMac. The Observer published some recently where CalMac had their wrists slapped for daring to increasing sailing and reduce subsidies. It was quite clear from the letters that the officials of the time were happy to pay extra subsidy on the town centre route so that trafic went to Western.

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    • Slightly confused, do the thumbs down indicate I have the figures wrong? Happy to hold my hands up to that, maybe I typed the wrong figures in to the calculator or read the result wrong. Would someone else mind checking them for me, thanks.

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      • You’re in the ballpark, John. It would need just over a mile to get down 100 metres and the same, obviously, to get up at 5% gradient. That actually ties in very nicely with the length of the crossing which, at the absolute closest points, is about one and a half miles across the water. The actual length would be likely to be 2.5-3 miles depending on geology, choice of location for the portals, etc.

        I think your thumbs downs are from people who, rather than having a rational discussion about solutions, ideas and progress, would prefer to trade politically motivated abuse, nothing to do with your arithmetic.

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        • I have no real interest in your tunnel discussion.
          As for your ‘solutions, ideas and progress!! Are you seriously suggesting this could be an answer? Does your plan really have any chance of being taken forward by this government? The likelihood of any progress with what you are discussing is pie in the sky (the odds would be better on them providing a helicopter).
          I had a look at your Norwegian sub sea tunnel project, it’s impressive, but this government will not fund such a project. All they have managed so far are the famous bath tub boats.
          As for the thumbs down, I wouldn’t worry about them, at post 3 I had a total of 55 last time I looked, and I was right!

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        • Thanks for the reply pm, thought I had got it wrong again :).

          2+2=5 – since I was only giving someone figures and as I haven’t said anywhere in my post whether I support a tunnelling programme or not it’s slightly bizarre how someone could arrive at the conclusion they appear to of come too.

          Have we really ‘progressed’ to the point where, as you say, people can’t have a rational discussion and help each other out no matter what their own personal opinion is. All a bit sad really.

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  14. Tunnelling is the answer, but not simply for Dunoon alone. The whole of Argyll including Kintyre would benefit from tunnels under the Clyde and across to Loch Fyne and under it at Otter Spit. The old steamer piers are not suited to these smaller vessels and the idea of town centre services being maintained is not feasible against the efficient private competition for the car traffic.
    There is merit in Dunoon Lad’s sugestion of running the railway to McInroys Point. It should receive government backing as it would encourage commuters to leave their cars on the Cowal side and use the trains on Clydeside.

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  15. Murdoch ” There is merit in Dunoon Lad’s suggestion of running the railway to McInroys Point”.

    No there’s not. This is just more fantasy from the fantasists.

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    • Simon- why is it fantasy? Compared to other recent projects throughout the Uk, I think this idea is achievable. Surely the main issue for passengers is getting to the railhead without having to change mode of transport, waiting times etc. Dunoon town centre does not have to be the ferry terminal, as passengers travel from throughout Cowal, so going to Hunter’s Quay should only mean minor changes to the connecting bus services. Getting to a rail station at McInroy’s Point would, in my mind be a better solution to the current fiasco. For numerous reasons a town centre to town centre service appears to be a no goer.

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  16. I’m still trying to work out if all these suggestions of tunnels are serious, or a serious wind-up.

    I’ve never heard anything so far fetched being plugged as something we should take seriously in a while.

    Well, not since the SNP suddently announced out the blue that we were at the start of a new oil boom. That really did make me laugh, talk about comic timing…

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    • It’s no more or less serious or rational than a proper fast ferry system, which would need 2-3 new vessels costing £>7m each and pontoons and breakwaters at~£10m, or 2 new ROPAX vessels of the same size as the streakers at £>10m each. Both these will need millions per annum subsidy to run. Tunnels have annual running costs of circa 1% of capital cost.

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    • So, Gus, your opposing argument is ….?

      I stated, at Post 12, “If anyone cares to dispute, objectively, the figures for a tunnel, they’ll be making a useful contribution.”

      I meant what I said so dig out some facts, dispute mine and then I’ll appreciate being better informed. Otherwise your comments are nothing more than heckling, easily ignored.

      And, although I couldn’t be less subtle than in some of my earlier posts, I’ll spell out my reasoning one final time. Cross-fiord subsea tunnelling technology has in recent decades become well developed by countries adjacent to our own. An economic case can be made for a cross-Firth tunnel. If implemented, Western Ferries would be faced, thereby, with insurmountable competition for traffic. They would be unlikely to survive. A tunnel can be forestalled indefinitely if Western Ferries get a proper grip of this situation. To do so, they must integrate their services fully into the needs of the community by whatever means are appropriate. They currently fail to do so and are playing a political standoff game. They need to understand that, for them, this is no longer a win-win situation. To put the ball firmly in WF’s court, it appears that the threat of serious competition will be necessary. A leapfrog in technology has arisen and it’s a case of the biter bit, in fact.

      I’m proposing that there a two mutually exclusive options for a permanent fix. One involves WF, the other involves a tunnel. I really don’t care which of these is implemented.

      Or, Gus, do you have a better idea? Preferably one that’s been thought through.

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      • I ‘do not need to dig out some facts’, as I have said quite clearly on so many occasions the only outcome satisfactory to commuters travelling Dunoon-Gourock town centre to town centre is for the Snp Government to provide the two ferries promised when the were elected in Argyll and Bute.
        The tunnel suggestion has been called fantasy,as I said the Norwegian example looks impressive, but for this crossing it just is not going to happen.

        Do you believe this government will put the investment in place to fund your tunnel idea?

        I do not have a problem with WF, but they need competition and the competition must come from town centre to town centre, the monopoly situation that has been allowed to develop is not good for Dunoon.

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        • There was a time when horseless carriages were called fantasy, but at least they were still at an early stage in their development; to dismiss out of hand the obvious option of a tunnel is the mark of the blinkered and ignorant (or perhaps the little Scotlander).

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          • Robert,- Are we to seriously believe you think there is ANY chance of this government funding your proposed tunnel?

            I suggest you have look at Cowal Courier and click on ‘The Watchman’, this might give you some sort of idea how the commuters of Cowal view the tunnel possibility!

            To insult others as blinkered and ignorant does not enhance this debate.

            ‘little Scotlander’ – please explain your definition?

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          • ‘Little Scotlander’ – the Scottish version of a ‘little Englander’, unwilling or unable to look beyond their own borders and see how other people get the job done.

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    • OH FFS – everything isn’t te fault of the SNP Jammie, no matter how much you being “unashamedly brtish” wishes it to be so

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      • Never said it was – read more carefully. You’ll actually find I think the SNP made broadly the right decision on this route, bar the ridiculous vessels due to the inadequate tender process.

        It was the SNP government that awarded the tender, right? It is the SNP government who own Argyll Ferries, right?

        Please don’t attack me for attacks I never made :)

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  17. Probably suggested many times already but for 2.5 mil a year run Western Ferries from Dunoon and have a very short shuttle bus to Gourock Station. Where’s the problems with that?

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    • The problem is it does not work if you have to do it on a regular basis. How many hours per week are you prepared to spend traveling to and from work? Work out how long somebody would spend getting to and from Glasgow each week in the way you suggest. It can be done for a short while but not long term.

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  18. pm, you’re going to have to spell this out even more clearly.

    You quite clearly have an issue with Western, with your various passive accusations.

    Let’s be clear:

    They operate from early morning until late at night.
    They operate up to 4 ferries an hour.
    They take passengers (plenty of them).
    They take cars.
    They also accomodate the bus from Dunoon Centre (i.e. must be charging a good rate to make it work).
    They are even considering cross ticketing arrangements.
    They operate in msot weather conditions and do their utmost to get people across the river.
    They do not take a single penny of taxpayers money.
    Their fares have always been more competitive than Calmac ever were.
    The provide sustainable jobs and employment.

    So what do they NOT do? How can they ‘integrate’ more into the community? Maybe you want a chauffeur driven car to take to to Gourock station?

    You have not and CANNOT demonstrate any need for a tunnel, other than ‘ach, it would be nice to have – 2 different ferry routes and a road route don’t offer enough combinations’.

    You seem to be confusing Western, who do a fantastic job, with the Scottish Government, who have not done as good a job as they could have (I hesitate to say bad job, because they have provided Dunoon with a passenger service that is brilliant, with the exception of the ferry spec which has catastrophically let them down).

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    • Nice to see a positive comment, Jamie, about a firm also also integrates well with the Cowal economy by employing a largely locally based staff who live in the area.

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      • There are only two problems:-
        1) Western Ferries did trouser public money, was it £500.00? This was to pay for most , if not all of the revamping of the HQ terminal. Some bargain for WF – they were not even required to instal public toilets or decent waiting rooms for pedestrians.
        2) WF fares were not cheaper than Calmac least not for 10 journey tickets, they were always slightly dearer.

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    • Quote: “I’m proposing that there are two mutually exclusive options for a permanent fix. One involves WF, the other involves a tunnel. I really don’t care which of these is implemented.”


      “I’ll spell out my reasoning one final time”

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    • Western do receive taxpayers’ money; the shiny new linkspans were partly paid for with a grant from Argyll and the Islands Enterprise.

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  19. pm – you are not spelling out anything.

    What are Western NOT doing that you expect them to?
    What is the problem you are trying to solve? Permanent fix to what?

    There are 2 permenent fixes already – one is called a road. The other is called Western, who will not be shutting up shop. The 3rd is arguably not permanent becasue the Dunoon folks are hell bent on destroying it.

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    • There is a PSO for a passenger link from Dunoon to Gourock station; WF have displayed no appetite for taking this on. A series of what are in hindsight unfortunate decisions by various governments over a 35 year period have brought us to here, a ferry service that doesn’t work in anything over a stiff breeze.

      I suppose Holyrood could discover that there isn’t really a PSO, all this has been a terrible mistake, Argyll Ferries will be wound up and Dunoon and Cowal abandoned to the opposition parties and WF, but it doesn’t seem likely, not least as the government would face calls for an election.

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  20. Dunoon Lad “Simon- why is it fantasy?” well you said it would be simpler cheaper. to extend the rail head to McIlroy’s point and build a station there.


    Given that trains cannot make 90 degree turns what is the route from Gourock to McIlroys’ Point?
    How many buildings will have to be demolished along the route?
    How much compensation will have to be paid to business/house owners whose buildings lie in the path of the route?
    How long will demolishing and construction take?
    How long and how expensive will planning be?
    How much for a station at McIlroy’s point (and where would you put it?) – the last station that opened in Scotland at Conon cost £600k?
    Where is the money coming from?

    “Simpler and cheaper”???????

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    • Simon, you seem to be thinking of every possible reason for not doing this – the good old ‘can’t do’ attitude that sometimes gets Brits criticised by our transatlantic friends?
      This attitude to infrastructure investment seems to have been inherited by Scots from their English neighbours – the false start to the Channel tunnel, the extended agony of getting the high speed rail link to London built, the current commotion over the route of HS2 through the English shires.
      It’s unfortunate that the black farce of the Edinburgh tram construction project mismanagement risks casting the Scots as even more inept, and the price of Conon Bridge doesn’t help, but there are projects in this country that turn out very well indeed – for example the return of trains, with all-new infrastructure, to Larkhall and Alloa – both places not that different from the Dunoon area in terms of population.

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      • For every Edinburgh trams fiasco there is a M74 or Commonwealth Games facilities success; good project management will get the job done on time and on budget.

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  21. Robert you really should try reading posts before you comment. Your statement “Simon, you seem to be thinking of every possible reason for not doing this” – is a statement of the bleedin obvious and here’s why…

    Dunoon lad said extending the railhead would be a ‘cheaper and simpler’ option I said that was fantasy and he, not unreasonably, asked why.

    So what you have is my response to Dunoon Lad raising all sorts of reasons why this would not be a ‘cheaper or simpler’ solution.

    That clearer? Do you understand the context of my post now?

    Oh by the way – that is NOT a can’t do attitude – that is however a realistic appraisal of just some the difficulties this supposed ‘simpler and cheaper’ solution would face. Anything is possible is you chuck enough money at it. However, all of the reasons I ‘ve raised conspire to increase costs significantly and at a time when public spending is being slashed.

    Have a nice evening :)

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    • Simon- my vision (possibly not a popular one) was to extend the rail track along the sea front somehow. On hindsight though, this route would spoil the Gourock Prom drastically. I had no thoughts of any buildings being demolished along the way. What about a monorail from Gourock station then!

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    • Simon, it’s not the relatively short-term slashing of public spending that’s important, it’s the long-term economic health of Cowal (and, I suspect, Bute) that deserves long-term commitment to a very substantial upgrade in robust transport links, and would make them value for money.
      Dunoon Lad’s suggestion of extending the train route to connect with ferries at McInroy’s Point has a good deal to commend it – and I’d guess that the optimum route would involve tunnelling to avoid destroying the urban fabric of Gourock, with the associated costs of buying expensive land and properties. It would also probably make it easier to provide a station at the rather cramped ferry terminal, hemmed in between the shore, the main road and a steep hillside.
      I happen to think it would be worth extending the railway at least to Dunoon, if not Rothesay, to eradicate the problem of weather-related disruption for once and for all – although the point’s been made that the main shipping channel’s over 80m deep so a railway tunnel to Dunoon would be a lot longer than the undersea distance. If the geology’s hostile then I’m probably flogging a dead horse, but I wonder if it is?

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  22. Apart from (I think) the crossing to Cumbrae, is there any other ferry that has started using a shorter route from the original piers used? Dunoon to Gourock is probably the only Scottish Route that has private competition, which decided to use a much shorter route using their own ports in new places. The issue here is Cal-Mac has not had any competition on their routes, so continue to use the ports used for decades, and as they are subsidised, have not bothered to look at a shorter crossing for any of their routes. Please correct me if this is not the case. Western originally wanted to use Dunoon Pier to sail from, but the Town Council of the day voted against them, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

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    • WF’s Islay service shortened the traditional route to Port Askaig by using a new berth at Kennacraig, about 5km down West Loch Tarbert from MacBrayne’s shallow draught wharf near the head of the loch – although I believe that Argyll County Council was talking of shifting the terminal even further down the loch beyond Whitehouse.

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    • I see your point DL, and agree. But there have in fact been a small number. Ullapool-Stornoway and Uig-Tarbert/Lochmaddy are certainly shorter than what went before, and Oban-Craignure replaced the Sound of Mull/Tobermory mailboat. But therein hangs another potential row. Nothing has changed for decades and there ARE possibilities

      For example, now that there’s a Skye Bridge, why is Stornoway still served by a 50 mile crossing rather than by expansion of the Uig-Tarbert crossing? This is just over half the sea distance. People I know from Lewis are as likely to use one as much as the other. (Be warned, though. If you choose to travel by either of these routes, Calmac’s check-in deadline is an inexplicable 45 minutes for cars and an incredible 30 minutes for foot passengers … And don’t forget, no onboard ticketing.)

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      • Tarbert is a considerable distance from Stornoway, and Uig is surely a much less attractive mainland port than Ullapool, which has a relatively easy connection to Inverness and is surely similar to Uig in travel time to the central belt?

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        • I sort of agree, Robert, but the fact is that my Lewis acquaintances do use the crossings more or less 50-50 – anectdotal, I admit. The carryings into and out of Uig, unfortunately not disaggregated for Tarbert and Lochmaddy in the statistics, are broadly similar to those of Ullapool-Stornoway. I think DL’s point is that, given a blank sheet of paper, would we do it like we do at present and I agree, we probably wouldn’t, and wherever possible short crossings and good road connections would predominate across the network.

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  23. Robert – to quote yourself you are really are flogging a dead horse. You said “the main shipping channel’s over 80m deep”.

    Well in comparison the maximum depth of the Channel Tunnel is only 75 metres – and most of that was boring through soft chalk.

    So if the shipping channel is 80 m deep you need to drill well below the maximum depth of the Channel Tunnel and leave enough solid rock above to protect the tunnel itself. How much do you leave above? 1 metre? 10 metres? 20 metres?

    Your flogging continued unabated when you suggested a train tunnel all the way to Dunoon and then to Rothesay. A train tunnel would mean a huge increase in costs and no cars – or else the bizarre loading and unloading of cars onto a train at Gourock and then off again at Dunoon/Rothesay. Or, at least one additional double width tunnel for cars.

    And the cost of all this nonsense???????

    Robert, the horse is well and truly dead – stop flogging it.

    At least Gus’s idea of ‘helicopters’ was meant as a joke…

    Have a nice day :)

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    • If you had a good look up and down the length of Norway you might change your tune, Simon – and, incidentally, I wasn’t proposing a tunnel all the way on from Dunoon to Rothesay, just for the undersea stretches & approaches.
      However, to be fair (?) I’ve previously mentioned that if the latest optimistic prediction of recoverable Scottish oil reserves turns out to be true, who knows?, it might even be affordable to extend a railway via Tighnabruaich and the Otter to Lochgilphead.
      I can imagine your outrage at this idea, but try not to fall off your perch – it’d just be ‘connecting up the dots’ in our unique topography, and could have huge economic benefits.

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    • The Norwegian orthodoxy is to leave an overhead layer of 40-50m to minimise water leakage and the potential of non-consolidated strata causing problems, earlier tunnels with as little as 25m cover did incur increased costs from the tunnel lining and grouting needed to reduce water ingress; with 5% gradients this gives a total tunnel length of approx. 5km. The Norwegians recommend a maximum gradient of 8%; if that was allowed the tunnel could be around 500m shorter. Taking the highest quoted cost of construction(£6-12k per metre) the longer tunnel will cost £60m. For comparison the Shetland Islands Council estimated the cost of a 7km tunnel at £86m last year.

      The combined car traffic of the two ferry services in 2010 was 625,400 cars; combining this with the pro-rata multi-journey ticket cost of £9.20 gives £5.75m. Combined commercial vehicle and coach traffic was 36,500; the average figure from the Deloitte study was £40 giving a revenue of £1.46m and a total revenue of £7.21m. Allowing for a 1% of capital cost annually for maintenance of the tunnel that gives a payback period of slightly less than 12 years, assuming no growth in traffic or toll charges and a loan rate of 5%. I don’t think it’s likely that traffic would not grow if a tunnel was built and growth is likely to increase if the toll was removed after the loan payoff, all achieved with no public subsidy beyond access to cheap government borrowing.

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      • You’ll have over 10,000 additional bus crossings (probably two times that for timetable coverage) to transport the existing AF foot passengers. That takes your payback down to 9 or 10 years.

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  24. @pm

    pm – you are not spelling out anything.

    What are Western NOT doing that you expect them to?
    What is the problem you are trying to solve? Permanent fix to what?

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      • I didn’t see any actual answers, but it’s fine, we can leave it. I prefer straight talking rather than riddles about PSOs and unrelated matters being brought into a debate that is very simple and has a simple answer.

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        • Jamie, the previous replies pointed you towards the answers. But for the very last time, I’ll try to explain, even if your mind is, as I suspect, made up.

          First of all, get this clear – I have said repeatedly in threads here that I admire greatly what WF have achieved, their efficiency, their service, their value for money, and, not least, that their exemplary capability and the latent threat of them competing elsewhere has, for decades, helped to shake up the complacency of Calmac.

          Whatever faults there may be across the Calmac network, things would be a sight worse had there never been a Western Ferries in the wings. I think we’re agreed on all of that.

          WF have wiped out Calmac on the Cowal service. Fine. One look at Cowal Ferries’ accounts tells me that, as a business, they deserved to be wiped out. Calmac’s residual AF service, as currently constituted, is a passing aberration which will not endure long. What WF are NOT doing is to provide a comprehensive alternative for ALL users of the Cowal crossings, fully integrated with the rest of the public transport network, and especially, integrated with the needs of commuters and others in relation to railway services.

          If WF wish to run their operation in such a way, cornering only the most lucrative part of the market, then in this derugulated world, they’re entitled to do so. Few could complain when there was an 800 ton ship ploughing back and forth carrying the half million foot passengers who, presumably, were minded not to go by WF. Few, that is, other than the taxpayers who were shelling out well over £3 million annually for this arrangement.

          What do I expect WF to do? That’s the wrong question. But what could they do to improve matters? Well, together with WCM, they could arrange for proper integration of Cowal local buses direct to Gourock station, with priority boarding of buses onto the ferry and with considerably more frequency than the present McGill setup, and all properly synchronised with train times. And somehow they need to do this and cope with peak passenger demand. Western Ferries’ MD boasted in the Herald in 2010 of having already taken 20% of all foot passengers on the crossings through the linkup with McGill. He needs to plan on how to attract, and cope with, 100% of demand. If he is incapable of organising that and the only feasible mode of transport for those 500,000 is a dedicated passenger ferry then so be it. If that means we’re back to a new PSO, conceivably a new 800 ton ship, and consequently multi-million pound subsidies for ever and a day, then the economics in favour of a tunnel really, and I mean REALLY, begin to stack up.

          WF need to change their corporate mindset. The fight with Calmac is effectively over and it is now time to consolidate the service in the widest sense. They have, for the time being, the opportunity to step into the breach and provide a truly exemplary service. Otherwise, government will continue to meddle and with that comes a real threat to their business of a Nordic-type solution.

          And, by the way, PSOs (aka conduits for scattering YOUR money) are at the very centre of this issue.

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          • Okay . There we have it. You want WF to act like some sort of transport authority.

            They are a FERRY company. Don`t mean to be cheeky, but you are way off the mark. To expect them to do the government, SPT and\or Transport Scotland`s job is just plain silly and really does your arguement no favours.

            I`m sure Mr Ross isn`t losing a moments sleep about a tunnel.

            Sounds like you`re preparing for the passenger route being dropped?

            Have a good evening.

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          • Fair enough but the buses in Cowal mainly miss the Hunters Quay terminal. As for McInroy’s point all the buses do go past there.

            As a point of correction 25% of Calmac’s carryings were actually in vehicles.

            If Western Ferries had more nearby parking I would imagine that more people would use their service.

            Overall I think you are right in that a better more frequent bus on ferry service is really the only way forward.

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  25. Simon, most of your questions relating to the basic concept of a tunnel would be answered definitively if you would take the trouble to read the authoritative links I listed under Comment 16, above. I plucked these quickly from Google with no effort. There are very many more for anyone who cares to look, published by experienced Norwegian tunnelling engineers and geologists. For the most part, these are serious technical documents and perhaps too challenging for the less fortunate. Perhaps, for them, there’s a “Tunnels” book in the Ladybird series.

    But wait … is that the sound of a mind slamming firmly shut?

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  26. Just to entertaint he railway to Hunters Quay…

    At 2012 prices, it’s costing Inverclyde Council £4.7m to extend the car park a distance of a few hundred metres.

    The distance from the station to McInroys point is 1.7miles.

    I worked out that if we use the baseline of the car park, thenm it would cost in the region of £70million to deliver an extension right along the shore front and a small station. That’s a lot.

    There is an issue of course – the line would probably be shut in bad weather at it’s next to the water.


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    • Jamie, it would probably be partly in tunnel, given the topography and built-up areas, and not vulnerable in the same way as – for example – the line further down the coast.

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    • Thats rubbish again Jammie – they are not extending a car park, they are re-aligning a road system, with a new road going through the existing car park , with a new slip way for boats, further car-parking an dother enhancments

      But dinnae ( as usual) let the facts get in teh way of you talking complete tripe as usual

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      • Dear Sam,

        I suggest you stop making all these silly accusations before you make a fool of yourself.

        I can assure you that the Kempock St car park is being extended eastwards towards the station. The east bound road will indeed go through it, although it was originally all going to be car park.

        But please, don’t take my word for it, go and look at the plans for yourself. It’s application 12/0212/IC on the Inverclyde Council Online Planning website.

        May I point you in the direction of the ‘Approved Site Boundary Plan’ first.

        That shows the site as it stands – note where the car park ends.

        Next, go to ‘Approved proposed detailed layout sheet 2 of 3′.

        Look closely for the following comments.

        ‘Edge of existing car park’
        ‘Proposed rock armour edge for new car park extention’
        ‘New car park extension over existing shore area’

        Now, given that these are the approved plans, tell me sam, who is talking tripe?

        You picked the wrong guy to accuse of talking tripe about Kempock St car park my friend.

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  27. There really is no point in discussing all these projects further, as I am sure we all know that no Government (especially one with very scarce resources) will spend millions of pounds of their budget, on schemes where a private company are more than willing to outlay their own £millions, on ships, infrastructures, offices etc, and provide the service at no cost to the Government. Yes, they charge for the service, but you do not get many services today for no cost to someone.

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  28. Dunoon Lad – you have some brass neck I will give you that! “There really is no point in discussing all these projects” It was YOU you muppet that started the nonsense about the railway being extended to McIlroy’s Point as a ‘cheaper and simpler option’.

    Then bullet-brain Robert jumped on your bandwagon (train) proposing a railway tunnel to Dunoon and Rothesay via the said tunnel which will have to be deeper than the Channel tunnel: enter DB and PM claiming it’s all perfectly feasible ’cause they googled Norway and not only that and it will make a profit – meanwhile Robert now has the tunnel extending to Tighnabruich.

    Is it a full moon or what?????

    All utter nonsense of course and even Dunoon Lad now recognises that.

    Still, it kept Robert entertained for a while and as his carer says “that’s always a bonus”. ;)

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    • If it’s factually wrong refute it; jumping up and down, clutching your parts, pointing and yelling ‘that’s rubbish nonsense, what a ridiculous idea’ just makes you look petulant. The figures supplied by the Norwegian Tunneling Society are derived from building hundreds of kilometres of tunnels in the past 30 years, actual build costs not a quantity surveyor’s calculation. Dismissing this as nonsense is ridiculous and childish.

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  29. Robert, bursting your railway tunnel balloon is not being snotty. It might be clever, smart, smart-arse or urine extracting – but never snotty.

    Anyway must go – matron is calling….

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  30. I wonder what someone from Norway, Faroe or Iceland would think on reading the blinkered views expressed in the comments on this thread.
    It seems that no one sees the bigger picture of the Cowal crossing being the springboard to a transport transformation for all areas in Argyll, Kintyre and even Islay.
    Everything is always a fantasy, we’re too small, too poor, too stupid. No Can Do is our new motto.

    I did not see any suggestion of running some of the ferries from Hunters Quay to link with the trains. It would only add a third onto the present transit time from Hunters Quay to McInroy’s point. If it is possible to land cars at Gourock, why don’t the government allow Western access to Gourock as the alternative is clearly not possible or viable, and working families are being forced to leave the Dunoon area.

    To expand the dream, the government should invite WF to run a service at Otter Ferry and start making road improvements from there to Hunters Quay.
    Once the traffic builds up, that will be the time to discuss tunnels.

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    • Surely it would be more worthwhile if there was a public ferry authority to manage passenger ferries btween Dunoon, Gourock and Kilcreggan – and maybe Helensburgh – with control of both ferries and shore facilities, with a remit to encourage passenger traffic by offering efficient coordination with trains and buses, and with the power to improve weather protection of landing places if necessary. This would need the government to invest in the future of the area, but WF shouldn’t be directed (and presumably subsidised) to stray from doing what it does best.
      The idea of reviving the old route via Otter Ferry from Mid Argyll to Dunoon would require a huge investment in road improvements, and would surely be bad value compared with investment in a tunnel between Gourock and Dunoon.

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  31. Robert, the Dunoon traffic will never justify a tunnel on it’s own. Developing a shorter route to Kintyre, the Loch Melfort area and Islay should increase the traffic to a level that would, and at the same time provide an environmental bonus when compared with the present route via the Rest. The government would be duty bound to provide the road improvements.

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    • Not sure about the ‘environmental bonus’ – and the summit of the old road between Otter Ferry and Glendarual is considerably higher than the Rest & Be Thankful, with much steeper approaches from each side, while the topography onward toward Dunoon doesn’t lend itself easily to constructing a new main road.
      Dunoon and Cowal would justify a tunnel from Gourock, if this country was reasonably prosperous, for the greater good of everyone living in the area. You’ve only got to look at Norway to see the benefits to even relatively sparsely inhabited areas of having reliable weather-proof transport links, and it could mean the difference between communities that are stagnating and those that are thriving.

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      • To halve the driving distance, and fuel burn, from Glasgow to Lochgilphead must be a bonus in anyone’s book. I don’t think the old road to Otter Ferry is higher than some Highland routes and once double tracked and maintained it would be a safe enough drive.
        All roads were single track and dificult at one time, some still are, but were improved as the need arose. Once this ferry is in operation it will also justify the road being improved.
        Modern machinery makes road construction a lot easier than in the past.
        The solution to making our country prosperous will be in own hands next year.

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