The good news is the fun of this service looking like it may be CalMac’s first new route in 20 years – and that there is general recognition that Campbeltown is on the way up. The rest is simply unhinged.
The political purpose of the route is said to be to serve the Kintyre peninsula:
- by bringing in increased visitor numbers
- and by providing another transport link to residents in this remote peninsula.
This has been designed in consultation with the community – who seem only to have been thinking of developing their own travelling lifestyles and not of the local economy.
The crucial opening season can only seriously deliver another transport link out of the peninsula for Kintyre residents.
That is not going to bring revenue in. It is going to assist more revenue to be taken out.
The service as scheduled:
- Allows for a single day trip out of Campbeltown – on Fridays, to Ardrossan and onwards into Glasgow and back.
- There are no inward day trips for visitors to taste Campbeltown before committing to a longer stay.
- The shortest stay possible for someone who wants to see anything at all of the town, will require a visitor to pay for the cost of two nights in a B&B.
- The one out of the six weekly services that calls at Arran, does so on Saturdays on the outward passage to Ardrossan,. This too is designed as an occasional lifestyle option for Kintyre residents and not to bring vital business to the town.
This service does little other than make it possible for residents to take their spending power out of the peninsula – a really smart business development strategy for the local economy?
Then there is the indefensible shortage of time between announcement and implementation. This is down to Transport Scotland. It’s ‘other people’s money’ syndrome. No one would make such a serious investment of their own money with so little advance preparation.
The 23rd May start date is declared to be designed to serve the Kintyre Songwriter’s Festival which will run in Campbeltown from May 24th to 26th May; and the 2013 MOKRun [Mull of Kintyre Run - a half marathon] and 10k race which will be taking place on Sunday 26th May, from and around the town.
With five weeks to go, it is naive in the extreme to imagine that any marketing with a chance of giving the new service a measureable impact in support of these events can be put in place.
There is absolutely no business strategy for this service in evidence, never mind in place. If this is what the community wanted – any responsible government would have refused to give it to them. But, with the September 2014 vote coming up, this is a government in giveaway mode with public money – so the community has simply been given what it wants, like a child who doesn’t have to earn the money to pay for it.
This has all the hallmarks of the familiar political crash landing of opportunism.
The planned service is an indulgent lifestyle option and is not remotely capable of delivering the economic development that will save Campbeltown. Small numbers of people will be able to ship out to shop for a day on Glasgow on Fridays – and that is the heart of the matter. Should the public purse – ever, never mind in these times – pay hugely for a big ship to enable an occasional jolly to Glasgow for a very small number of people?
Moreover, with check-in times, they will take no less time to get there by this route than they would on the present five returns a day Scottish Citylink coach service between Campbeltown and Glasgow - and they will have to disembark and entrain at Ardrossan, part way through that journey.
This is a serious waste of public money. It can add little if anything to Campbeltown’s local economy; and it has no chance of surviving an expensive and misdirected three year pilot.
Check out the facts and the evidence below.
While fare prices are not yet known but are to be published very soon – more evidence of a service running to catch up with a unexpected political announcement – the timetable has been issued to all CalMac offices. This shows that the pilot will run a total of six single journeys a week, spread over four days from Thursday to Sunday, over the summer season.
Thursdays offer a single inward journey to Kintyre, leaving Ardrossan at 18.40 and arriving at Campbeltown at 21.20 – a 2hr 40m passage time.
Fridays offer a day return from Campbeltown to Ardrossan and back, with the outward journey leaving Campbeltown at 07.35 and arriving at Ardrossan at 10.15. A train leaves Ardrossan Harbour for Glasgow at 10.36, with one back at 16.50, arriving at Ardrossan Harbour at 17.36, in good time to check in for the 18.40 ferry departure back to Campbeltown for 21.20. [The return train fare will cost paying travellers from £8.30 to £12.80 on top of their ferry fare - to be announced.]
Saturdays offer a single outward journey from Kintyre, via the Isle of Arran to Ardrossan, leaving Campbeltown at 07.00, arriving at Brodick on Arran at 09.20, leaving Brodick 25 minutes later at 09.45 and arriving in Ardrossan at 10.40.
Sundays offer back-to-back single journeys from Ardrossan to Campbeltown and back, leaving Ardrossan at 13.50, arriving in Campbeltown at 16.30; with a 25 minute turn around, leaving Campbeltown at 16.55 and arriving in Ardrossan at 19.35.
The core issue
This timetable does not offer any affordable ‘taster’ visits to Campbeltown.
There is no achievable day return from Ardrossan. Worse there is no achievable return into Campbeltown that does not require paying for TWO nights B&B if you want to see anything of the town at all.
Here are the facts.
The Thursday service into Campbeltown does not arrive until 21.20. There will be little opportunity to explore the town beyond a night in a B&B before the next ferry back to Ardrossan at 07.35 the following morning – still without a chance to see the town. Otherwise, you have to spend two nights in a B&B, take the Friday in Campbeltown and catch the 07.00 ferry on Saturday, on the long way back to Ardrossan via Brodick in Arran – a 3 hr 40m passage time.
Few people will pay for two nights in a B&B unless they already know what sort of town they are heading for.
The Friday service offers a comfortably achievable day return – from Campbeltown to Ardrossan, with time in the Ayrshire town – and a more probable journey into Glasgow and back - from arrival at Ardrossan at 10.15, to check in for departure before the boat leaves at 18 40 and a 21.20 arrival time back home.
In terms of a single overnight in Campbeltown, the Friday to Saturday service into Campbeltown offers the same obstruction as the Thursday to Friday one.
You get into Campbeltown at 21.20 on Friday night and you leave at 07.00 on Saturday morning – with no time to see and experience the town. Again you are forced either not to come at all or to pay for two nights B&B with a 16.55 departure time giving much of a second day in the town – but a Sunday, not the most visitor friendly day in most places. Is Campbeltown any different?
Saturdays offer a single outward journey from Campbeltown to Ardrossan via Brodick in Arran – meaning that the route does not offer visitors in Arran an easy passage to Kintyre; although the Ferries Plan will see the small ferry service out of Lochranza in the north of the island continuing to run to Kintyre – into Claonaig in the summer season and into Tarbert in the winter.
This Saturday service does offer Kintyre residents a trip to Arran, then making their way home at will via the separate Arran-Ardrossan ferry service and then back to Kintyre from the following day, with the outward Sunday service from Ardrossan leaving at 13.50 and arriving into Campbeltown at 16.30.
Sundays offer what are effectively two separate single journeys – from Ardrossan to Campbeltown and almost immediately from Campbeltown back to Ardrossan.
If you arrive in Campbeltown on a Sunday – at 16.30, you cannot get any ferry return to Ardrossan until the 07.35 out on the following Friday.
The focus of the service
This service has not been calibrated to bring business to Kintyre. It has been designed to act as a contribution to a improved transport service to residents of Kintyre – to get out of the peninsula.
This may well reflect the wishes of residents who would like more services – but it can hardly reflect the wishes of any intelligent businesses.
The economic development task is to recreate Campbeltown as a great place to visit, to spend time, to shop and with plenty to do – to bring revenue in, not to send it out – to build an audience.
This service will best suit those on a driving holiday – but they can only get in to Campbeltown on three occasions a week, arriving late on Thursdays and Saturdays – at 21.20 in each case; and arriving late enough on a Sunday – at 16.30 – a day when the range of services available are not likely to be many or various.
Speaking personally, if I was new to Campbeltown and I was looking at a night in a B&B before I saw anything of where I was, I would not choose to arrive from Ardrossan on either Saturday or Sunday.
I’d not get there until 21.20 on Saturday, with a Sunday to come; or I’d arrive just in time on the Sunday to find very little to entertain me but enough time to decide to move on.
Would I choose to arrive on a Thursday night. Maybe – but a night time arrival is never much of a draw.
So the most use to the local economy will come from touring holiday makers – who, by nature of their holiday and the means to do it – keep moving.
Will the first season be the killer?
No one has brought a business development strategy to the introduction of this service.
Its late introduction – which will have been a political decision – or rather, not a decision, more of a handy opportunity – cripples the first of its three seasons.
There is no time to plan for it, to market it and to gear up ready to receive and exploit it. This means a slow start and a possibly weak first season’s performance
Any new service needs to hit the ground running. Initial impact may not be everything in a three year pilot – but it’s not much less than everything.
Yes, you can change a pilot for its second year – but you’re not even starting from base then. You’re starting from a negative, with a year of disappointment behind you and a loss of the momentum of hope, expectation and belief.
That is not a momentum Campbeltown can afford to lose.