Western Ferries: new sailings, inflation rises in fares – and protection for concessions

[15th March: Updated below with Western Ferries' comparative fares] In a ‘good news’ announcement, Gordon Ross, Managing Director of Western Ferries, has earlier today announced that from 25th March, in eleven days time, the company is increasing its early morning sailings from Monday to Friday, with the three vessel service running from 7.00am in the morning.

The consequent changes to the schedule are as follows:

  • Monday to Friday: there will be 7.00am, 7.20am and 7.40am departures from Hunter’s Quay – compared with the present 7.00am and 7.30am.
  • Monday to Friday: there will be 7.30am, 7.50am and 8.10am departures from McInroy’s Point, compared with the present 7.30am and 8.00am sailings.
  • Monday to Thursday: the three vessel service will then continue through to 6.00pm.
  • Friday: the four vessel service will operate as usual on Fridays.
  • Saturday: the four vessel service will start from 10.00am.

The increased frequencies, signalling changes in the demand pattern on the Western Ferries service demonstrate the company’s flexibility in responding to that need.

Around a week after the introduction of the increased sailings, on 1st April 2013, Western will introduce a rise in fares, generally in line with inflation.

However, Western have also confirmed that there will be no fare increase for those travelling under the SPT Ferry Concessionary scheme.

Fares under this scheme are being held at the current rate, despite SPT reducing the amount of compensation it pays to the operators.

Western Ferries is the only ferry operator to waive the 90p single and the £1.30 return fare payable by SPT card holders. This gesture allows those with concessionary cards to continue to take advantage of of free passage on the Western route as foot or car passengers.

Customers with a National Entitlement Card for the blind or partially sighted will also be able to travel free as a passenger on Western.

On making the announcement, Gordon Ross said: ‘These additional early morning sailings have been introduced to reflect a change in our commuters’ preferences, as it would seem that they now want to leave Dunoon slightly earlier than they did before.

This additional morning capacity will be further augmented in late August following the arrival of the new vessels. Their construction is progressing well and they should both be in service before the Cowal Games weekend.

‘They will be faster and larger than the vessels they are replacing, thereby ensuring that Western Ferries’ service will continue to provide the capacity required to satisfy all the needs of the community.

‘These vessels will have modern passenger accommodation designed to provide easy access and facilities for disabled passengers. Once they are in service all four of the Company’s vessels will have disabled toilet provision.

‘In relation to fares, Western Ferries is pleased that despite the increased costs associated with providing its service, fare increases have been kept roughly in line with inflation, therefore continuing its policy of minimising fare increases.

WF Comparative Fares

‘In fact, notwithstanding this increase, our passenger fares still represent the cheapest travel option for car and foot passengers. Western Ferries’ is also very proud to continue its policy of providing free travel to those with SPT concessionary cards.

‘Lastly, Western Ferries’ timetable improvements, fare levels, free SPT travel and the investment in new vessels are all being delivered without any direct subsidy payments from the Scottish Government.’

Western Ferries continues to be an exemplary operation, demonstrating what good management and a genuine care for service can achieve in the private sector.

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29 Responses to Western Ferries: new sailings, inflation rises in fares – and protection for concessions

  1. Not screaming just questioning 2 of the facts presented in the article!

    The concession return is currently £1-20 and not £1.30. If it is going up to £1.30 should this not be made clear?

    “These vessels will have modern passenger accommodation designed to provide easy access and facilities for disabled passengers. Once they are in service all four of the Company’s vessels will have disabled toilet provision.” says newsie. When the new boats arrive there will be 6 by my count Are two of the boats to be sold? (that would interest the ferry compaigners) Are we to take it that the 4 older boats are to have disabled toilets installed? Do 2 of them already have disabled loos? I have no idea. Again confusing.

    We should be campaigniing for public loos at both terminals before eulogising the company to the extent this article does. After all we gave the company £500,000 for aspects of the expansion project. Some loos are not an unreasonable expectation in my opinion.

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    • Jim B – the new boats are replacing the older two in the fleet. The other two already have deck level passenger lounges with disabled toilets. This will leave the fIeet the same, with four boats. I am sure all previous sales of Western’s retiring ships, would have had a clause in the sale documents barring them from being used as vehicular ferries at least on the Clyde, if not further afield. Whether they could or would be used as passenger only ferries on the Clyde, has already been discussed somewhere, and the consensus seemed to be that they would be too expensive to be used as passenger only ferries.

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      • “the consensus seemed to be that they would be too expensive to be used as passenger only ferries”

        Exactly. Here you have ferries known to be reliable in the sea conditions on the route, able to operate at a fantastic profit when carrying vehicles but not economic carrying only passengers.

        AF are suspended again today, they were off all day yesterday, because they use bathtubs not remotely suited for the purpose to which they are being put.

        The sensible thing is to use larger ferries on the town centre route and let them carry vehicles. As CalMac demonstrated, before the Government of the day stopped them, putting on more sailings increased revenue and cut subsidy.

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    • Concession return is free, is it not, on Western?

      And ‘we’ gave Western £400,000, not £500,000. How much did ‘we’give CalMac over the past umpteen years in grants from AIE?

      It’s not just at ferry terminals that loos are required. How many are there in the entire Cowal peninsula? Not many!

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  2. Western say;”These additional early morning sailings have been introduced to reflect a change in our commuters’ preferences, as it would seem that they now want to leave Dunoon slightly earlier than they did before”.

    That is a droll sense of humour. People who commute by car have been forced to get an earlier sailing to ensure they get to work on time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • At last ferryman has broken his silence, to have a swing at Western Ferries. Always with the negative.

      How’s the feasibility study going Ian? Reality biting yet? I hope you have some grace to apologise to Newsie when she is proved right about a two vessel service costing millions more than a passenger service.

      And I am sure that Nicola is quacking in her boots about the police action.

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      • “At last ferryman has broken his silence, to have a swing at Western Ferries. Always with the negative.”

        Peter – would you expect anything less from a disgruntled CalMac employee who has lost the use of his staff travel pass for his car?

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        • The one with the lost free travel is Captain Sandy (ABF). He has not said a word on here since he was outed. It’s a shame he left western ferries otherwise he could still be enjoying free travel.

          Ferryman is someone completely different, perhaps if he had the courage of his convictions he would use his proper name. I suspect he prefers to attack under the veil of anominity. Come on Ian, be honest with us all.

          As do the others from the DGFAG.

          Peter Wade.

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          • Thanks for the information.

            Now that he has been outed, looking forward to his next post.

            Perhaps he is big enough to explain why he is using a made up name.

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  3. Newsroom quotes MD of Western Ferries ‘our passenger fares still represent the cheapest travel option for car and foot passengers’.
    Having looked at both WF and AF fares it would appear that at this moment this is not the case!
    WF single- £4.10 return- £7.80 10 book- £22.80
    AF single- £3.65 return- £7.30 10 book- £21.50
    Argyll Ferries have also announced there ‘new’ prices as from 29th March.
    Western Ferries fares increase ‘generally in line with inflation’ will be interesting.
    Not screaming just pointing out what seems to be fact, as there is a general misconception particularly with those from outside the Cowal area that Western are cheaper.

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    • Are they not cheaper if you purchase tickets from the many discounted ticket selling agencies on each side of the river?

      By the way, there was only one Calmac car ferry route that offered tickets available in local shops at a vastly discounted rate, and that was Gourock/Dunoon. Imagine that?

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      • The fares above are from the websites of WF and AF.
        On WF it does say ‘Discounted fares are available on multi-journey tickets purchased in advance of travel from our Head Office in Dunoon or from our network of agents’. No other information on cost or where the ‘network of agents’ are to be found!
        What point are you trying to make about Calmac(AF) tickets available in local shops? is that not what you are saying WF do?

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      • I had taken the fares I gave from both websites.
        Newsroom appears to be wrong with AF single and return adult fares.I did not quote any child or OAP prices.
        I will have to admit I gave AF agent price for 10 journey, by mistake.
        But, and yes there is a but, Western should be cheaper with the monopoly they have been gifted by the Snp.

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          • They have a total monopoly as AF are so often cancelled due to ‘adverse’ weather conditions.

            I will repeat once again, this is not comparing like for like, AF boats? are not fit for purpose. Will you not admit this is true?

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        • Largs – Millport 10 min 10 journey £15.70
          Gourock – Cowal 20 min 10 journey agent £21.50
          Wemyss Bay – Bute 35 min 10 journey £34.50

          WF dont seem to be charging proportionately more than comparable other crossings, how much do you think the charge should be?

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          • So when you buy your electricity/gas/petrol it does not bother you what the cost to the supplier is, and hence his profit margin, just as long as he charges you roughly the same as other suppliers?

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  4. Gus – fares are cheaper if you buy locally – most of the outlets have a ‘Western’ logo. THere is a newsagent non Shore St in Gourock and the newsagent in Sandbank does them, just before you turn left round to Hunters Quay.

    Not really too much different to getting train or airlines ticket cheaper just because you book early – except here you don’t need to book early, just take 2mins out of your journey to buy them.

    No one likes fare increases, but for the journey’s I use Western for, I will still save a packet on each trip, never mind the journey time saving.

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  5. This information is not much use to tourists who might look up websites to plan a journey.
    Also you don’t have time, if your a foot passenger intending to go on AF, to then run to local shop and then get yourself out to Hunters Quay. ‘Two minutes out of your journey to buy them’ is obviously your calculation for someone in a car!
    When I intend to travel I go from Dunoon town centre to the railhead at Gourock, this gives me the choice to go by train to Greenock, Paisley or Glasgow. Or to take a bus to Greenock or up to IRH.
    Given your comments I assume you go by car?

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    • Gus – yes, it is easier if you have a vehicle. But you can buy passenger AF tickets as far as I recollect in Gibsons, Standard Shop, both supermarkets, Kirn Variety, Innellan Lido, and the Sandbank shop. Western tickets can be bought in Sandbank Shop, Hunter’s Quay PO., W.F. Office, Kirn Variety, both Supermarkets, and Walkers. A couple of years ago, Western’s tickets were almost half the cost if purchased in the local outlets. And of course, All Western tickets have no expiry date, and can be used with any car. No idea if AF tickets have expiry dates, but if they don’t, why not purchase a few when you have time, and keep them in your wallet to use when you travel. With a wee bit of organising you could save yourself a lot!

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      • I have my travel 10 journey card for Argyll Ferries because that is the way I choose to travel as a foot passenger.
        Unfortunately too many people are making comments as car drivers.
        It is becoming tiresome explaining to people foot passengers want to travel town centre to town centre,I have no intention of going Hunters Quay to McInroy’s Point as they are too far away from Dunoon and Gourock.

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  6. Solution: invite Western Ferries to run a centre to centre service with their old boats. The Cooncil, who wring their hands with anguish about this service, would surely waive their exorbitant berthing fees to facilitate this.

    “Ah!” I hear you all cry, “Western Ferries will then have a monopoly….” Well no-one seems unduly bothered that Cal-mac has a monopoly on virtually every other route in Scotland.

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