Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group public meeting

On Thursday night, 11th July, the Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group held a public meeting in the Queen’s Hall in Dunoon. The agenda focused on the recently published report on the feasibility of a state subsidised passenger service on a two boat operation also offering an unsubsidised commercial vehicle carrying service between the town centre destinations on this route.

This service would replace the existing state subsidised passenger ferry service between the Dunoon and Gourock town centres and would be in competition with the successful and unsubsidised private sector Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service between the outskirts of both town.

The feasibility study sees the route as essentially providing a commuter service, with no serious prospect of market growth.

The session

Thursday night’s meeting was led by the committee of the Action Group alone. There were no apologies given from the invited Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who chairs the Steering Group on the town centres service, or from the representative of the consultants who produced the study.

In the audience were local MP, Alan Reid and Dunoon Councillor and former Council Leader, Dick Walsh. An apology was given from Councillor Gordon Blair, who had given the committee to understand that he was at a council meeting. With the council in recess at the moment, in the middle of its ongoing upheavals and the plotting continuing, what Councilor Blair, a bit of a player in the stushie, was doing at such a meeting was of passing interest.

The meeting, with an audience of around 90, was very well chaired by Susanna Rice, chair of the Action Group’s committee. Lucid, rational and easy-on-the-ear audible, she kept the session moving through its agenda, made manged time for questions from the floor and kept that on track. At one point committee member, Ken Barr and a couple of the audience took the discussion down a tunnel but were quickly returned to the surface in a reminder from the chair of the focus of the meeting – completed in under two hours.

The audience

The substantial majority - upwards of 80% – of the audience was beyond working age. This means two things:

  • the campaign is a hobby  – albeit it a committed one – by those peripherally affected by what is recognised by all concerned to be a commuter service;
  • those campaigning for it are unlikely to be frequent users of the commercial vehicle component of the desired service. It is not unreasonable, though, that people a little less than secure on their feet would be unnerved by the skittishness of the MV Ali Cat passenger ferry in heavy weather; and by boarding from the linkspan rather than from a pontoon – a development which has been offered and rejected. They would be better off with a passenger ferry service they were happy with.

Setting the scene

From the chair, Susanna Rice started the meeting by reading a single sentence from its conclusions: ‘The study demonstrates that, on assumptions made, a passenger and vehicle ferry could be feasible between the town centres.’

The emphasis above on ‘could’ is ours and is germane. This was the best that the feasibility study could offer and it arises from an admitted situation where the consultants had chosen not to factor in any competitive response from Western Ferries. They did, however, mention that any one of several such responses Western might make could [Ed: Our emphasis again] swing the picture to one of non-viability; and that Western had told them that it would do everything necessary to protect its position.

Ms Rice said – with honest transparency – of the report’s conclusion which she had read out: ‘This is a very important step. Without this, we would have had nowhere to go.’

She is absolutely right.

This was the opportunity open to the Scottish Government to put this long-running campaign to rest by allowing the study to show the reality – that all the facts stack against any realistic possibility of this service being offered -either by the public or private sectors – let alone succeeding.

The government chose to reassure weakly rather than tell the truth. This leaves them and the consultants whom they strategically instructed in the production of this report, carrying a weight of responsibility for deception . As we reported the day after the study was published, key material submitted during the study process was deliberately excluded from the report, as it strongly challenged even the weakly positive conclusion.

The Scottish Government’s  purpose was to protect all possible votes in favour of Scottish Independence in next year’s referendum by using this study to give faint hope alongside enough understated reality to support an eventual decision not to proceed.

This is profoundly dishonest and the consultants who clearly leaned as instructed, can only be professionally embarrassed by a ‘study’ which is nothing more than a selective set of wildly optimistic assumptions set to produce just enough hope for the campaigners in its outcome.

This study deeply damages the credibility of the consultants, MVA. They clearly bit their tongues and delivered what they were told to deliver, rather than making any genuine assessment of feasibility. This – the most generous accounting for what MVA have delivered – underlines the  true utility of ‘consultants’ to their paymasters.

The business of the meeting

The meeting decided that its immediate aim was to command the assignment of CMAL’s vehicle and passenger ferry, MV Coruisk, to the town centres route for the coming winter – and to be retained there on an extended trial. Coruisk is currently leased to Caledonian MacBrayne for the Mallaig routes in the small Isles, as part of its Clyde and Hebridean Services contract, which now runs until 2016.

The intention is that Coruisk would run a passenger only service.

This ignores the fact that:

  • Coruisk’s fuel costs would be a lot higher than either of the current Argyll Ferries passenger boats;
  • that, at a higher Gross Tonnage, its berthing dues would be much higher;
  • that its height above the water puts its own bad weather performance under question;
  • that the steepness of its internal passenger stairs might be difficult for passengers with buggies or mobility problems. [It does have a small lift.]

The major issue here is that the cost of operating Coruisk would put Argyll Ferries beyond its contract price – and if the government retrospectively changed that price, the three competing bidders for this service back in 2010-11 would have cause for legal challenge. None of these matters were mentioned at the meeting.

The meeting discussed:

  • harbour charges and ways of getting them reduced – to impact favourably on the service’s attractiveness for potential operators.
  • fuel costs on the town centres route, relative to western Ferries;
  • the extent to which they saw the report’s revenue estimates as being ‘conservative’.
  • vessels and operators – largely accepting Neil Kay’s advice that private finance for newbuild boats and a private sector operator were the preferred outcomes to aim for;
  • the proposition that a commercial vehicle service also offering a subsidised passenger service would earn enough from carrying vehicles to reduce the public subsidy on passengers.

This last is a misdirection. With a private sector operator contracted to run the proposed service, any surplus from the vehicle element is profit for the operator. It is certainly not returned to the government to reduce the passenger subsidy. This is how a wholly public sector service might operate but the Scottish Government has neither the appetite for this nor the purse to support setting it up.

Three strategies were agreed ‘to make the Scottish Government recognise its obligation to deliver the boats’ for the proposed service. These were:

  • that supporters should submit formal written complaints in volume on the Argyll Ferries service;
  • that the Action Group committee should organise a petition and/or e-petition in support of the proposed service;
  • that the Action Group committee should organise campaigners and coaches for direct action at the Scottish Parliament around mid-September 2013.

 Needs analysis

The feasibility study, as we pointed out in our evaluation of it, conducted no semblance of the core necessity for a needs analysis for the desired additional vehicle service; nor did Thursday night’s meeting mention  any issues of need.

In September 2012 For Argyll conducted its own analysis of the current service provision – Research reveals shock insights into reality of dunoon ferry service provision for the Dunoon-Gourock route. This worked from vessel capacities, from published timetables and from published Scottish Transport statistics on route carryings. These were from 2010, then most recent available.

This analysis demonstrated that the current Argyll Ferries two-boat town centres passenger service together with the Western Ferries four-boat vehicle and passenger service between the outskirts, there was an overall overcapacity for foot passengers of 83.32%.

This represents a 69.78% overcapacity if all passenger demand was to be supplied by Western Ferries alone; a 62.68% overcapacity if supplied by Argyll Ferries alone; and a 67.97% overcapacity on the basis of supply by the former Cowal Ferries vehicle and passenger service alone. [Ed: Argyll  Ferries passenger service replaced the Cowal Ferries combined service in 2011.]

In terms of vehicle carryings, we showed that in 2010-11 there was an annual demand for 625,400 car movements – against an available capacity of 1,200,000. There was also a demand for 36,500  movements of commercial vehicles and buses, each of which takes more deck space than a car.

This indicates that the vehicle shifting capacity delivered by Western Ferries is comfortably capable of meeting demand and growth – with more capacity to come when its two new and judiciously larger boats come on stream.

The Argyll Ferries passenger service delivers commuters direct to the Gourock railhead, with a train service on into Glasgow and intervening points. Few commuting in this direction need to take a car on the town centres ferry.

Assuming vehicles to be coming from the least convenient starting point in each case, they drive an additional two miles or so to the Western terminals. It is arguable that vehicles disembarking at McInroy’s Point for Gourock are advantaged over vehicles disembarking at the Gourock ferry terminal by having road priority through the town in rush hour. The ‘Give Way’ junction with the main road from the long road exit from the Gourock ferry terminal is an easy choking point in rush hour traffic.

In terms of daily sailings, the two current services together provide Dunoon with:

  • 146 sailings daily, 73 in each direction, from Monday to Thursday. 30 in each direction are from the town-centres passenger-only service and 43 are from the Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service.
  • 164 sailing daily, 82 in each direction, on Fridays. 30 in each direction are from the town-centres passenger-only service and 52 are from the Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service.
  • 152 sailings daily, 76 in each direction, on Saturdays. 30 in each direction are from the town-centres passenger-only service and 46 are from the Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service.
  • 110 sailings daily, 55 in each direction, on Sundays. 15 in each direction are from the town-centres passenger-only service and 40 are from the Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service.

Add the picture from these sailing frequencies to the figures for the current overcapacity provided to Dunoon and the actual carryings recorded on a route recognised in the feasibility study to have little room for overall market growth.

This could not demonstrate more sharply that there is no need whatsoever for a vehicle and passenger service to replace the current passenger service on the town-centres route.

What the campaigners are talking about is their wish for such a service – a completely different matter, especially when public money is involved and governments are required to put ‘best value’ at the top of the list of criteria in state service provision.

Harbour Charges

The state owned CMAL [Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd] owns and operates most of the piers and harbours in the west of Scotland mainland and islands. The rest are owned by local authorities and private operators.

Owners impose Harbour Charges on users – made up of Pier Dues, paid in respect of each passenger and each car carried; and of Berthing Dues paid in respect of the Gross Tonnage  of the boat concerned, regardless of carryings.

The issue here is that CMAL substantially raised its Harbour Charges from 1st April,

The rise in CMAL’s harbour charges was effectively announced in Transport Scotland’s Scottish Ferries Review [Page 11 of the pdf version]. Transport Scotland said that they were minded to make piers and harbours self-funding, charging fees to cover not only operating costs but the building up of financial reserves to cover reinvestment. This was seen as removing the need for grants for such purposes from the Scottish Government.

However, Transport Scotland said, in the same paragraph: ‘The cost to ferry operators of harbour dues would rise which would lead to increased subsidy payments by the Scottish Government’.

The intention behind this is likely to have been ill-expressed here in the Review, since the government does not subsidise all ferry operators but simply those providing lifeline services. In their case the government’s expressed intention is to subsidise lifeline service operators against the additional harbour charges.

The new funds for reinvestment in harbours would come from private sector commercial ferry operators and other commercial maritime users of piers and harbours, who would face significantly higher harbour charges. The Review recognises that this change would see ‘the user providing more of the funding at the point of use’.

In the case of the proposed service for the Dunoon and Gourock town centres, much of the harbour charges due would be born by the commercial vehicle carrying element of the service. The cost of pier dues for passengers would be factored into the subsidy for the passenger service. The cost of pier dues for vehicles would contribute directly to costs and to fare levels; as would the greater share of the berthing dues.

The passenger service’s share of berthing dues would have to be calculated on a basis relating to the current gross tonnage of the passenger ferries employed by Argyll Ferries on this route. The rest – with the greater tonnage of an appropriate vessel directly due to its vehicle carrying capacity, would be attributable to the commercial operation.

The harbour charges applying produce a situation where, according to the feasibility study and its assumptions, the pier and berthing dues chargeable under the most likely Scenario 1 model [static demand] amount to 71.4% of the total incremental costs of running the proposed combined service.

The Action Group hope to argue successfully for substantial discounts on these charges, which would clearly improve the potential profitability of the service, all other factors being equal.

However, the killer fact in the competitive situation here is that Western Ferries owns both of its own linkspans and so has no harbour charges to pay to a third party.

For the obvious reason that anything is more than nothing, this means that no operator on the town centres route – however discounted a rate they might hope to negotiate on harbour charges with the owners concerned, could be in a position to gain market share by undercutting Western’s vehicle fares for very long. They would do this at the cost of steadily losing money at a rate that whatever market share they would attract could not sustain.

Fuel Costs

The Western Ferries route is 2 miles. The town-centre route is 4 miles. For the proposed service to match Western’s timetable – which the study accepts it would have to do – its boats would have to travel twice as far, twice as fast.

This of course impacts substantially on fuel costs, although in one of the obvious deceptions delivered by the feasibility study, it declared that there would be very little difference in the respective fuel costs.

In fact, with older boats less fuel efficient, industry experts have estimated for us that the CMAL ferry, MV Coruisk, in doing the 14-15 knots the study envisages as necessary to make the 4 mile passage in the necessary 20 minutes, would burn twice as much fuel on her own in a day as the total fuel usage of all four Western Ferries boats, which do around 8 knots to make their 2 mile crossing in 20 minutes.

There would also be safety issues involved here, with the proposed service travelling at almost twice the speed right across the path of the Western Ferries shuttle service. Does Clydeport, the statutory harbour authority, not impose a speed limit of 12 knots.

More fuel efficient newbuild boats – as Western’s are and will be – would reduce the extent to which the proposed service would inevitably cost more in fuel burned to make the timetable – but its fuel costs would always be substantially higher.

Revenue estimates and market share

A key factor in estimating the commercial viability of the proposed service is the market share it could hope to attract from what is recognised essentially to be a commuter market with no great market growth potential.

The baseline figure in the most likely of the three scenarios considered – continuing static demand – assumes a 56% market share for vehicle carrying. There is no secure basis for this figure. It appears in Paragraph 7.2.29 of the report with no more foundation than the hat from which it has been pulled.

There are a range of assumptions governing market share, some of which have substance and some do not.

The assumption that you can double your market share by running two boats may be mathematically neat but does not follow.

Competitive pricing does impact on market share. It can be shown in operation when Cowal Ferries was running a subsidised passenger and supposedly unsubsidised vehicle service between the two town centres, yet Western Ferries, despite its peripheral location, retained its pronounced market share advantage by dint of the attractiveness of its fares structure and ticketing. [And, as admitted in November 2012 by our local MSP, the vehicle element of this service was indeed illegally subsidised by the Scottish Government.]

However, competitive pricing is directly related to costs, to current performance; and aspects of it, where the public sector is involved,  are constrained by competition law. There are limits beyond which a service cannot survivably cut its prices.

Here we are looking at a situation where the proposed service:

  • will have higher operating costs through harbour charges and higher fuel costs alone;
  • will be starting from scratch against a well established and successful private sector competitor, dominating the market for vehicle carrying and holding a substantial share of the market for passengers;
  • will have to take a 42% market share of vehicle traffic just to break even;
  • will  be unable, in the required forensic accounting, to hide any illegal subsidy for the commercial vehicle element of the service, as the previous state service got away with;
  • will be open to immediate challenge under competition law at any indication of a situation where the receipt of state subsidy enables a destructive commercial challenge to an existing and unsubsidised private sector operator.

Private finance and private sector operators

At the Thursday night meeting, Neil Kay raised the possibility of private finance for new build boats, pointing to the Royal Bank Of Scotland buying the new ferries for the Northern Isles Service and leasing them to the service operator of the day.  He noted that the building of the new Stornoway ferry had been financed by Lloyds Bank.

The problem here is that in the case of Stornoway ferry, for example, Lloyds had a nine year guarantee on their investment from the Scottish Government and from CMAL. There was absolutely no risk to the bank.

In the case of the Dunoon-Gourock proposed service, the Scottish Government would not legally be able to guarantee the cost of building a vessel with a commercial focus.

Moreover, tendering processes are much lengthier where PFI models are concerned.

Before we leave this topic it has to be noted that the figure of £6 million the study puts on the cost of each purpose newbuild vehicle and passenger ferry has been received as risible by the industry.

The possibility of private sector operators being interested in bidding for a service like that proposed is highly unlikely.

Any reasonably experienced industry operator would see through the omnipresent flaws in the feasibility study at once. They would recognise the lack of a foundation for the assumptions on market share. They would know that the assertion of no real difference in fuel costs between the proposed and Western’s services is nonsense. They would quickly grasp the immense commercial advantage in Western’s ownership of its own linkspans; and they would know just what a headlock that puts on any competitor contemplating a price war to take market share.

There is no history of private sector interest in offering a commercial vehicle and subsidised passenger service on the town centres route. When the tender won by Argyll Ferries in 2011 was out there, with an open invitation to any bidder to offer a commercial vehicle service alongside the subsidised passenger service, of the four bidders, only Western Ferries submitted such an offer.

During this feasibility study, operators told the consultants that they were not interested in the proposed service, a matter excluded from their report, even though consulting potential operators was a part of the formal remit of their study.

At Thursday’s meeting, Neil Kay spun this by saying that the operators had told the consultants that they would wait until they saw the report before declaring an interest. ‘What operator would reveal his hand early?’, he asked.

Were this to be a credible excuse, the experience of the Argyll Ferries tender was exactly the point for any interested operator to declare their hand – and they had nothing to declare.

Western Ferries has put its own money into the successful, flexible and consumer-responsive service it runs; into the building of two new boats that will come onstream in the near future; and into the purchase and development of its own linkspans.

It is also the possessor of a well earned reputation as the most reliable ferry service anywhere on the Clyde; and of a large and sound base of goodwill with its service users and with other transport businesses.

In its financial modelling, the feasibility study took no account of the value of that performance record or of that goodwill in protecting Western’s market share.

Western Ferries’ Managing Director, Gordon Ross is arguably the most knowledgeable person in Scotland on the ferries industry. With an interesting background as a highly trained professional accountant, a fierce commitment to Western Ferries and a well-tuned strategic commercial intelligence, he is another factor of Western’s success the feasibility study had no means of taking into account.

There can be no question that Western would fight its corner in any situation whose declared purpose is to attempt to take its vehicle market share by using the associated comfort cushion of a state subsidised commuter foot passenger service direct to the Gourock railhead, for which there is known and certain demand.

The Action group said on Thursday night that they had asked the consultants what was the highest level of subsidy for the passenger service that might be proof against legal challenge. The answer was £3 million per annum. Coincidentally, the service subsidy envisaged by the feasibility study embraces that very figure.

The risks for Dunoon of the competitive scenario

Consider the fact that the overall market here is one the consultants feel has little real potential for growth.

This means that any new entry service can only hope to survive by taking away the  business of the existing operator. In a bitter commercial contest, this could  leave Dunoon with two vulnerable duplicated services.

A partially state subsidised service in this context is open to an immediate challenge under competition law on those terms alone – supported by the evidence of this feasibility study itself, which actually talks, almost lasciviously, of the desirability of Western Ferries being forced into ‘retrenchment’.

Consider the certain higher costs that the proposed service would unavoidably experience on its unsubsidised commercial vehicle component, in higher fuel costs and in higher harbour charges.

Consider the legal constraints surrounding the development of the new service.

Consider the infinitely stronger market position of Western Ferries at the point of entry of the proposed new service.

Consider that the driving force for the proposed service is from a population sector which, as non-commuting, would not be a major user of the town centre vehicle service.

Now consider a scenario where a private operator has accepted the judgment of this study and has successfully bid to offer a two-boat combined passenger and vehicle service on the town centres route, with the sweetener of £3m per annum as a state subsidy on the passenger element.

The operator is coming in as a newbie against a copper-fastened existing service. The study says that if he takes anything below an average 0f a 42% per annum market share of vehicle carryings across 15 years in the most likely static demand scenario, his service will not be financially viable.

With Western’s service record, goodwill and established travel habits, it could be five years before he gets within dreaming distance of a 42% break-even market share in this context. He would then have to rocket his market share exponentially over the last ten years to hit this average break-even figure of 42%.

He’s not going to hang around for that long.

If potential performance isn’t there by mid year two, our hypothetical newbie on the town-centres route just might think about giving it one last year. If he did, we doubt he’d stay to see the end of that year unless there was a miraculous turnaround.

No one these days can afford to lose this sort of serious money against operating costs that stay relentlessly steady, little affected by scant carrying of commercial traffic.

He might give the challenge one last shot, going to the Scottish Government and asking for some more help in subsidy. With EU law on state subsidy and competition law on unfair impacts on unsubsidised private sector operators sitting like twin albatrosses on their shoulders, there is nothing the Scottish Government could do. They would already have pushed the passenger subsidy – at £3m per annum, as far as they dared.

The only way the Scottish Government could assist him would be in the matter of reduced harbour charges but to stay clear of certain challenge under competition law,  the only way the government could offer this help would be to reduce harbour charges across the board for the entire west coast of Scotland and take the hit on its own forward budgetary calculations.

So the answer would be ‘Sorry but no can do.’

The newbie sees Western Ferries busily tanking away on their shorter route across the Clyde between their charge-free harbours. He can’t see it happening. He retires from the contract and Dunoon-Gourock now has no town centre service of any kind. Pinning it all on the punt of a successfully competitive town centres vehicle service has ended in losing the lot.

The risks of this campaign to the passenger service provision

The first and very real risk to Dunoon is the one sketched above, the retiral from the contract of the successful bidder, after an unsuccessful period of operation, leaving the town withut the town-centre passenger service to the Gourock railhead which it does need to support its commuting community.

This service could also be lost by two other means.

One is on  the grounds of simple economics. It is already cheaper during winter weather disruptions for Argyll Ferries to bus their passengers the couple of miles to McInroys Point and transfer them to Western Ferries than it is to run their own service.  And their current boats are much cheaper to operate than would be the case with two vehicle and passenger boats.

Add that insight to our own analysis of the massive overall over-provision on the Dunoon route and it can only be a matter of time before some Scottish Government calls time on the town centres passenger route.

And then there’s Europe. The first European Commissioner to examine the passenger subsidy provided by the Scottish Government was strongly convinced that it was out of line with EU policy. That Commissioner moved before reaching a conclusion and was replaced by a second commissioner who was much better disposed to the subsidy and let it carry on.

But stirring the EU up on this issue could be something of a boomerang, since much seems to depend upon the interpretation of individual commissioners.

The risks to Dunoon of going hell bent for this service

This is where the real damage is being done.

At Thursday night’s meeting, intelligent people were actually saying that this proposed ferry service – for which there is no demonstrable need – was the answer to all of Dunoons woes.

For Sale boards on houses were said to be about the loss of the town-centres vehicle service. That service went two years ago and had been running on a 10% market share of vehicle carryings for some time.

Dunoon 1

The depressed nature of the town was also attributed to the loss of the former service. People were saying things like: ‘If we have this service we can really sell Dunoon’.

You have only to look at Dunoon to see the long established signs of a town in which local businesses have not reinvested for a very long time; and into which a clueless if well meaning local authority has thrown all sorts of gimcrack excrescences.

Dunoon 2

The latest of these is a dreadfully alien low-slung lavatory block with an aluminium roof, squatting on a prime position by the bandstand outside the Argyll Hotel in the shapeless and neglected waterfont area where the ferries disembark their passengers.

Dunoon 4

And right on the joyfully lovely Victorian pier, which the Council visigoths were minded to demolish but is now, we hope, to be restored, a great rectangular wooden council shed hunkers down, blocking the view of the detail of the pier.

The problem with Dunoon is Dunoon – not the absence of an unnecessary vehicle and passenger ferry service to replace the town-centre passenger service to the Gourock railhead that it already has.

This campaign has been a serious distraction to good people, able people and well meaning people, including the campaigners themselves, from paying attention to the town, the critical casualty under their daily gaze.

We quoted Susanne Rice’s quietly heartrending remark to Thursday nights audience at the start of this analysis: ‘Without this, we’d have had nowhere to do’.

And it is this preference by a weak Scottish Government to continue, out of self-interest, to feed a serious deflection of attention to Dunoon for which we hold them most culpable.

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95 Responses to Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group public meeting

  1. Did FA attend the public meeting in the Queens Hall, Dunoon on Thursday night?

    If not where did FA source the above information?

    Were the photographs, obviously taken to show Dunoon in a bad light, taken by newsroom on a visit since the meeting or supplied to newsroom?

    Newsrooms dislike for Dunoon is well known, this is just another attack by her.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 19

    • I was there myself from the beginning and took verbatim notes of the entire session.
      I took the photographs myself just before the session and they are straightforward documentary shots. The reality of that part of the town is actually worse when seen all of a piece.
      It’s not a question of liking or not liking Dunoon – and personally I like a lot of it hugely – but not the crucial town centre area which is one almighty mess.
      I’ll prove both of these things, just for you. In the next couple of days I’ll do a photo piece showing the best and the worst of a place that has plenty of both. I have spent days there with my camera and I think you will agree that I couldn’t have taken some of the shots if I hadn’t liked the place.
      We would do Dunoon no favours if we glossed over the things it should have addressed long ago rather than chase the chimaera of an entirely unnecessary duplicate ferry service.
      It would always have made sense to go in hard for a top class passenger service and attractive shoreside facilities.
      Who in Dunoon even mentions the horrible huts in an ill organised improvised car park above the linkspan?
      Dunoon seems to have no idea of the importance of doing things well.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 9

      • Prompt response newsroom!

        If you were at the meeting why did you not, as a journalist, take the opportunity to question the panel of DGFAG, Ronnie Smith and Neil Kay on some of your assumptions above?

        Those of us in attendance would, I’m sure, have been very interested in how you would have gone about questioning the panel and the advisers rather than reading the above several days later.

        As for the photographs, the first one is the side view of the Queens Hall and car park across the road, intended to show……..?
        The next you describe as ‘a dreadfully alien low – slung lavatory block with aluminium roof’, this is in fact the careers office.
        The third you describe as ‘a great rectangular wooden shed’…..’blocking the view of the pier’, this was previously used by pier workers when the pier was in full use, I would imagine it would be removed if the pier is to be restored.

        The horrible huts you refer to are part and parcel of the Snp Governments failed promise to provide two new ferries,- proper toilets, waiting room and office should also have been built.

        However long it takes the campaign will go on.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 17

        • As a journalist, one’s role is to report not to engage during the event.
          One member of the audience who gave bis name as Dan Kerr, raised the issue of higher fuel costs – on the basis of the normal logic that makes the study’s conclusions an obvious deception.
          His point was that any potential private sector operator for the proposed route would see an obstacle to commercial competitiveness on the unsubsidised vehicle service aspect – knowing that he would have to do four miles to Western’s two in the same time of 20 minutes.
          If you’re doing twice as many miles at twice the speed, every trip, you will obviously have very substantially higher fuel costs – but the £50,000 study said the difference in fuel costs would be negligible.
          Mr Kerr was icily referred to the ‘authority’ of the study by a straight faced PROFESSOR Neil Kay who said ‘no one is questioning the study’s veracity on this’.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 8

          • “If one’s role is to report not to engage during the event”, where in your report do you report on any of the questions asked by members of the audience including the one you have now chosen to highlight from Dan Kerr?
            Reading through this ‘report’ again today one would have to come to the conclusion your only reason for attending was to criticise further the ongoing campaign and while in the area have another go at the town generally,after all it’s been a while since your last blast at Dunoon.
            You take issue with how Dunoon people see the future when we get the vehicle/passenger service reinstated. If your role is to report, why not take the trouble to speak to people while in the town? Why not interview the shopkeepers and cafe owners.
            No you won’t do that, what we can continue to expect from you is YOUR OPINION, however wide of the mark of the thoughts and opinions of the people of Dunoon and Cowal.
            If this is your best shot at ‘reporting’ can I suggest you try to give a balanced view.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 9

          • Those people were given a chance to influence the report the action group held a meeting for local businesses, and the result was passed to the consultants.

            This was mentioned during the recent meeting, however there is no mention of it in the report.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

          • Peter, was this the meeting that did not invite Western Ferries to? Yes, I am sure it was, as I am sure it was discussed here at the time.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

        • On numerous occasions during the meeting, much mention was made as to the report along the lines of “now we have the facts”. However a detailed read identifies the vast amount of assumptions made by the consultants. Therefore the more accurate statement would be, now we assumptions made by MVA. Fuel consumption being one of many.
          There are more holes in the report than you would expect to find in a block of Swiss cheese.
          For the action group and their “expert advisers” to state that this document is factual, is simply shameful. If they think that this document is authoritive then they should be ranked alongside those who once thought that the earth was flat.
          Any potential operator or financier looking at this document will have a hoot especially if the action group are part of these meetings.
          For the taxpayer to fund this report is akin to the government sponsoring a comedy festival.

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  2. Just writing a post to give ferryman time to consider his usual responses, I wonder which one he will use first:
    1. ForArgyll’s ownership, insinuating that this site is owned by western ferries
    2. Dunoon needs competition because of western ferries high fares, perhaps bringing up mr Kay’s paper on expensive fares. Forgetting to mention that the MVA report says that Cowal ferries fares were 17% more expensive
    3. Link the removal of cowal ferries service to the demise of the cowal games, a slow house market, footfall in dunoon high street, and of course not forgettign the global economic slowdown, the disappearance of lord Lucan and the cruxificarion of Jesus Christ.
    4. Make untrue defamatory statements about Argyll Ferries service and the vessels.
    5. Make statements that anyone who disagrees with him and the action group are “aliens”.
    6. Make derogatory statements about McGills
    7. And the old chestnut westerns monopoly. Forgetting the existence of the road.
    Hopefully I have saved him from posting now.
    However there is always the chance that he has a new argument to amaze us all with.

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      • If we get independance the west of Scotland will look like Dunoon . The rot set in when the US left. Just look at the former coal mining communities after 30 years they still have severe problems.

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          • Marie, what do you see that is so depressing AND dreadful in the three photos in this story? Many towns throughout the country have really depressing run down views on show. The Queen’s Hall and The Pier are due major refurbs soon.

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        • Are you sure that the rot did not set in when the US arrived? It normally does.
          Since their departure, the Holy Loch has been slowly recovering with a marina and some timber shipping.
          I’ve worked with Americans who were at Holy Loch with the US Navy and they just remember Dunoon as a place they passed through between the airport and their ships.

          The coal mines were shut down because the City had lots of gas, “free from the sea”, to sell to you before Scotland woke up and claimed it.

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  3. Just a wee date mistake Newsroom –
    that the Action Group committee should organise campaigners and coaches for direct action at the Scottish Parliament around mid-September 2012.

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  4. I’m sure I read somewhere about there about the route being the most expensive ferry route in the world/Europe or whereever.

    I am in Portsmouth and on commenting that the ferry to Isle of Wight was rather pricey, my friend responded, all knowingly with ‘apparantly it’s one of the most expensive ferry crossings in the world’. I’ve had a good chuckle about that.

    DFGAG – FYI. A ten minute passenger crossing costs…wait for it…£16.50 Return for an adult. That’s right.

    So when you are slating Western for high prices, think bigger picture and be careful what you wish for.

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    • Western’s on board passenger return is £8.10, so for arguments sake half that for a ten minute journey – £4.05. That says it all Jamie, and totally blows Prof. Kay’s report right into fantasyland, where it now belongs? Ferryman?

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      • Dunoonlad, you are being deliberately misleading, rather like DGFAG – we all know you get the cheapest Western tickets by going through the network of outlets selling them. Not a single bit different from the national rail network where you do not get any discounted tickets if you alight without a ticket from a manned station.

        So, in the interests of fairness, can you quote the actual return cost for a passenger? :p

        i’m not t home right now, so can’t check the old ticket stubs, but I know that if a car/driver and passenger return is about 22quid, a passenger is most certainly not 8quid – further blowing this ‘most expensive ferry’ nonsense out the water.

        Oh, and incidentally, where the crossing with Western taking 15-20mins cost about £22 for car, drivr and passenger, the Tarbert-Portavadie return was nearly £50, and takes not much longer.

        Yes. I’ll repeat. nearly £50. Anyone who thinks Western is expensive needs to get out more.

        Sorry folks, but this ferry is becoming a farce where people are asking for something without knowing why they are asking for it. For TC – it would take too long to go through every reason why the report is nonsense, but I’ll point to one thing from memory.

        We hear that not having a vehicle ferry to the town centre is harming trade. And yet, if I remember correctly, about 75% of all vehicle traffic leaving western turns left.

        That’s right – three quarters makes a conscious choice to turn TOWARDS the town centre. Make of that what you want, but it shows that the ‘loss of trade’ argument is nonsense. In fact, Gourock residents complain (correctly, but exaggeratedly) that the loss of Calmac have increased traffic levels in Gourock town centre, and tried to use this as reasons for a by-pass. You can never please some people can you?!?!

        You’d have through that Dunoon would have welcomed thee reduction is traffic streaming through…


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        • Jamie, I don’t have the outlet passenger prices to hand, thus I quoted the on board price. As you correctly state, the even cheaper outlet prices makes the Isle of Wight fares even more expensive than here, and the Portavadie run, even dearer. And when you price the Colintraive ferry, which is of a few minutes duration, then Western’s prices are relatively low. No idea about the Isle of Wight service, but the others are heavily subsidised by the Government. So, Prof. Kay’s report about Western being probably the dearest fares in the world, changes to be not the dearest, not even in the U.K. Is he now going to apologise to Western Ferries, as he has requested that Western apologise to the consultants, for saying they are not reporting all the facts? This is only one report that he has issued, what others are wrong or misleading, and the DFAG are taking as gospel? Things are getting worse by the day.

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        • Given the number of times that this has been mentioned on this site and others, western has never responded, guess they have always had his number. Watching the action group refer to him as an expert, firstly is very funny and secondly undermines there efforts.

          Again the report says that cowal ferries fares have to be reduced by 17% to equal western’s.

          This report just shows the sadness and desperation of the entire situation.

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    The first bullet point from the paragraph titled The audience.

    Newsie, you have made my day, no make that my year, sums the whole ferry debacle in five words.

    Have a nice day ;-)

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  6. @baffled
    Well, as hammer and chisel would take too long, I would imagine newsroom used pencil and shorthand. ;)

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  7. There are valid points here, but the speed limit isn’t one of them; it’s an anachronism dating from when the Clyde was like Argyll Street on a Saturday. The Redjets in the Solent and the Thames Clippers operate in far more congested and navigationally challenging waters than the Clyde yet they operate at up to 30 knots with equal safety.

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    • Another case of people shooting themselves in the foot. If the same effort had been put into getting a 30 knot passenger cat with, note, a crossing time of about 7 minutes, there would have been one running ten or even twenty years ago. The 12 knot speed limit is a red herring, but it seriously limits the options for anyone who thinks it’s immovable.

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  8. Excuse me, have I missed something here? Where is For Argyll’s actual report of Thursday’s public meeting? Verbatim notes? For Argyll/Lynda Henderson hasn’t quoted anything of what was said by those in attendance at this meeting. Is this what passes for journalism as far as For Argyll is concerned? Deary me.

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  9. And another thing, all these people who are slating the feasibility report, please provide your own detailed analysis to dispute the findings of the report before venting your spleen with shot-from-the-hip sound bite comments.

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  10. I have just read again the feasibility report and must point out a glaring inaccuracy in For Argyll’s ‘reportage’ in the above article. The consultants have concluded that, and I quote, “a passenger and vehicle service IS feasible” – the emphasis on “is” is my own. Certainly gives the lie to For Argyll’s declaration that the consultants merely said the service “could” be feasible. Have you actually read the feasibility report Newsroom?

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    • The definition of feasibility is particular and refers to revenue exceeding costs however both of these are not factual, but based on assumptions that are not proven and have been challenged by those that know.

      The summary also states that the consultants looked at their definition of feasibility and not commerciality. Commerciality will be the key to attracting potential operators,

      The quote you use is incomplete given that this statement is conditional on the assumptions made. If you are going to quote don’t cherry pick.

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      • Based on reasonable assumptions, and on all of the hard evidence currently available as well. As for cherry picking, I have demonstrated that For Argyll, apparently not for the first time, is guilty of something much worse.

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        • What is the definition of reasonable. True, perhaps true, not close to true.

          Lets look at the passenger-only service proposed. The report states that the subsidy level has to increase by£1.3m, is that reasonable? Or here is another one is it feasible given the constraints on public sector budgets.

          Reasonable is just a word consultants use when they don’t know.

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        • Ok, TC, here’s an example of my problem with the assumptions and analyses behind the conclusions.

          I’m not at all convinced by the estimated power requirement for the outline passenger/car ferry specification put forward by MVA. By my estimation, it’s about half of what would be required. That impacts directly on fuel costs in the same proportion. I can see no workings to support their estimated 1.68 tonnes/day fuel consumption figure of which I’m sceptical. It’s a simple calculation which, if it has been performed, would have been better to have been explained. If their methodology is presented in the report, then I’ve missed it; I’m fairly sure it’s not.

          1.68 tonnes per day? Or about 3? Do I simply take their word for it (with no methodology present)? Or do I base my views on my own calculations? Bear in mind that this is a crucial element of the operating cost and the entire viability of your project hinges on it.

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          • It was stated at the meeting, I can’t remember by whom but someone at the top table, that the fuel consumption figures have not been disputed by anyone, including Western Ferries who have been scathing about the consultants report.

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          • How do you or anyone know what western ferries has said about the report? they haven’t given any detail to their concerns.

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          • Pm, I am not doubting your comments in any way, but why would a very experienced company like MVA get such an important fact so wrong in their report. It just makes no sense whatsoever!

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          • DL, sorry for missing your question re MVA’s figures.

            I’m not saying they’re necessarily wrong (I think we should all be very careful how we word our comments with regard to this sort of thing). But I’m very clear that my own estimates, based on the proven performance of comparable vessels and generally accepted engineering rules of thumb, don’t agree with the figures reported and by a substantial margin. If my estimates are better than those of MVA, I would hesitate to speculate as to why that has come about. As I said earlier, it would have help everyone if they had included their methodology with regard to this absolutely crucial element of the study. Instead, unless I’m missing something, we’re expected to accept an opinion which might have been plucked out of thin air for all I know.

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          • Thanks for response pm. Your answer now probably brings up even more questions, as to all the facts and presumptions in the consultation’s report. Obviously the type of ship required and the running costs would be a major consideration for any company interested in tendering for the route. The presumptions about users of any new service is high up there as well.

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    • No, it didn’t; it said that “given the assumptions made and analysis undertaken here, a passenger and vehicle ferry service is feasible.” That’s a very big caveat in consultant-speak. Or would you prefer to ignore the fact that quick and dirty assumptions necessarily had to be made, given the consultants’ limited terms of reference, and just take it all as gospel?

      If people are so certain that this scheme is viable, why don’t they get together and float a company, putting up their own funds and borrowings, build a pair of boats, and then cash in on the “positive net revenue” predicted by MVA’s assumptions and analysis?

      As ever with this caper, it’s easy to be free with money when it’s not your own.

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    • Long past time for a strategy to integrate control of passenger ferry routes and their landing points, with proper attention to ‘seamless’ integration with buses & trains. It happens in other places, and other countries, but we seem to live in a rather backward country – or is it just that SPTE doesn’t have the support, the vision, the clout and the skills that it should have? Can anyone imagine WF not being in control of their landing facilities?

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  11. Is it not the case that Dunoon harbour does not provide suitable shelter for berthing smaller sized, fast, sea going passenger ferries?
    Should this problem not be addressed first?

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    • Depending on the wind, spray comes over the walkway, and onto the linkspan area. The sea is probably too rough to sail in at that stage though. The Dunoon Pier location is not the most sheltered position, hence Hunter’s Quay pier has always been a sheltered berth, even for Cal-Mac in days gone by.

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  12. 1. ForArgyll’s ownership, insinuating that this site is owned by western ferries

    Response: ForArgyll says they are completely independent in every way, so I suppose that statement has to be taken at face value. However the blog is incredibly biased against Dunoon and in favour of Western Ferries.

    2. Dunoon needs competition because of western ferries high fares, perhaps bringing up mr Kay’s paper on expensive fares. Forgetting to mention that the MVA report says that Cowal ferries fares were 17% more expensive

    Response: Western make a massive 28% profit on turnover, and it is inflation proof as they increase prices with inflation. The link to Professor Kays website is http://www.brocher.com/Ferries/expensiveferry.htm which explains why the crossing is a contender for being the most expensive in the world. The MVA report noted that the published fares of Western and Cowal were similar. However they could not reconcile Western’s turnover with those fares. Erring on the side of caution they calculated low fares for Western. The lower the fares the harder to show any new service would not need a subsidy. In reality of course any ticket you got in the past was slightly cheaper on Cowal, at least that was the case for a book of ten car and driver.

    3. Link the removal of cowal ferries service to the demise of the cowal games, a slow house market, footfall in dunoon high street, and of course not forgettign the global economic slowdown, the disappearance of lord Lucan and the cruxificarion of Jesus Christ.

    Response: I don’t need to do that. The previous Public Inquiry whose finding were accepted by the Secretary of State at the time concluded “Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd should under no circumstances be permitted to withdraw from this route in view of the serious hardship, inconvenience, difficulty and the knock-on effect that would be caused to the users of the service. This was the unanimous view of the committee”. I suppose that Public Inquiry was also fixed.

    4. Make untrue defamatory statements about Argyll Ferries service and the vessels.

    Response: What statements have I made that were untrue or defamatory? The crews of Argyll Ferries do the best they can with unsuitable bathtubs responsible for the appalling unreliability. That is just fact. Anybody who used the Ali Cat before the current service knew there was no way she could reliably deliver a high frequency service year round.

    5. Make statements that anyone who disagrees with him and the action group are “aliens”.

    Response: I suggested that Peter Wade, Jim Williamson and the Dunoon Lad must be aliens or triplets because of their near telepathic ability to post within minutes of one another. Behaviour which I find strange. At the public meeting I don’t recall anybody standing up and telling the meeting Dunoon does not need a town centre vehicle service.

    6. Make derogatory statements about McGills

    Response: What derogatory statements did I make about McGills?

    7. And the old chestnut westerns monopoly. Forgetting the existence of the road.

    Response: Western have a monopoly of the vehicle crossing. I have heard some people say they drive round but for most that is not a realistic option and certainly not for commuting.

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    • Ferryman, hear, hear. Well reasoned arguments and responses which only those who consistently and bloody-mindedly refuse to accept the facts would try to rubbish. The silence from Gordon Ross to Prof Kay’s challenge to back up his ridiculous, and possibly libellous, reaction to the feasibility report with hard evidence is deafening and speaks for itself.

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    • 1. For Argyll is not biased, perhaps however a voice for reason and common sense in the face of madness.

      2. The report forgets to look at the subsidised routes provided by Calmac on the Clyde. These are far more expensive, subsidised and run by a public company.

      What is the profit projections shown by the feasibility report? Also worthy of note is that the subsidy level does not reduce in the report. Any surplus is removed as profit. So instead of western making its returns, keeping fare increases in line with inflation and investing in new tonnage, the returns are split hence weakening them and perhaps causing fares to increase in the future.

      3. That was 1981, the world has moved on since then. However you do blame the woes of the world on the removal of the vehicle service.

      4. Bathtub boats is a defamatory statement.

      5. Perhaps they simply got home at the same time, why does that make them aliens.

      6. Complaints with regards to the time time it takes.

      7. For a true monopoly look at CalMac a single supplier and no alternative. On the Clyde despite the fact that they that are subsidised, they are more expensive and are less frequent. It’s most likely the existence of the road which keeps western’s fares so cheap. Hence not a monopoly.

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  13. i spoke to a hand on the Solent Cat yesterday. He was surprised the the Ali Ct is not coping on the Clyde route. His view was that the Solent and Ali Cats are good vessels and says they have come across from IoW in a Force 8 before.

    When passengers on a plane experience turbulence, is that reason to withdraw the aircraft?

    No, didn’t think so.

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    • In Cowes and Southampton the ferry terminals are very much more sheltered than at Gourock or Dunoon. The ability of the ferry to travel from Dunoon to Gourock, or vice-versa, is little use if it can’t safely dock at either end.

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      • The exposure of the Dunoon and Gourock landings, developed in the days of relatively large and heavy steamers, must surely be an issue that needs facing up to – and sorting – if a direct passenger route between Dunoon and Gourock station is to survive.

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    • Well said Jamie,

      a lot of the “issues” with Ali Cat are not issues, but poison being spread by those who want a Car Ferry and will do anything they can to acheive that, plus the Cowal Courier going along with them.

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  14. Think this is the type of passenger vessel the consultants said would be able to run in almost all weather conditions on the Clyde. This type of vessel runs to the Isle of Wight.
    Red Jet 4 Specification
    The contract was placed with North West Bay Ships in Tasmania in May 2002, construction began in July and sea trials took place in Hobart during March 2003. She arrived in Southampton aboard MV Egmondgracht on the 9 May and was named ‘Red Jet 4′ by Ellen MacArthur in Cowes on Wed 18 June, entering service between Southampton & West Cowes on Mon 23 June 2003.
    Built: 2003 by North West Bay Ships Pty Lyd, Hobart, Tasmania. Yard no. 06
    Type: 39m Catamaran Ferry
    Registered No: 906937
    Service speed: 38 knots @ 85% maximum continuous rating
    Maximum speed: 42 knots
    Range: 200 nautical miles (@ service speed)
    Crew: 1 x Commander, 1 x Mate, 1-2 x Cabin Attendant (max crew 6)
    Passenger capacity: 275 seated + 2 wheelchairs
    Length (overall): 39.88m, Waterline length (excl waterjet): 35.84m, Beam moulded: 10.82m
    Draught (loaded): 1.26m, Freeboard: 2.20m
    Gross tonnage: 342 tonnes, Net tonnage: 120 tonnes
    Deadweight: 42.26 tonnes, Displacement (lightship): 90.74 tonnes
    Tank capacities: Fuel oil 5,600 litres, Fresh water 500 litres, Lube oil 220 litres, Hydraulic oil 530 litres, Sullage 500 litres, Oil Bilge 200 litres


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      • Very interesting report db. It states that where high speed services have been introduced, the average increased usage is around 20%. The report suggested a 30 minute 1 boat (190 passenger) service for most of the day (any more would be overcapacity) and a spare boat for peak/Kilcreggan/cruises, another boat serving Rothesay to Gourock service. This would have reduced the cost of replacement vehicle ferries to Bute ( Western were keen to provide a Wemyss Bay to Rothesay service) the Dunoon to Gourock sailing time was 7 minutes? All sounded well researched. Wonder how weather resistant the vessels would have been? Prof. Kay did another report, and was totally against high speed ferries on the Clyde as they were too expensive to run. Was he right with this as well ;-)

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        • As db pointed out earlier, the problem with running smaller high speed boats has as much to with the choice of landing place as anything else. The exposed Dunoon pier and linkspan are particularly bad choices in this respect, being a historical abberation, a throwback to the busy days of heavily-built summer steamers when, in any case, the bad weather winter fallback piers included those in the Holy Loch but more usually, ironically, Hunter’s Quay, now in the hands of Western Ferries.

          As for being too expensive to run, the Red Jet 4 for example, with a crossing time of about 7 minutes at 30 knots, would easily give a half hour Gourock Dunoon service from both sides. Only one vessel would be needed, not the two heavily built car ferries which Mr Kay’s preferred, obsolescent option would require (and, obviously, only one crew of four or five). At 30 knots, I estimate about 3000 hp would be needed, but in an hour’s service only for less than 30 minutes would this be called on. Two car ferries running at 12 knots would be powered at the rate of about 1500 hp each, and both for fully 40 minutes in the hour to cover the current timings.

          All of the above translates into Mr Kay’s preferred two ro/pax ferry option costing 33% more in fuel, at least 100% more in crew (but probably 200% more when you include additional shore staff), about 2000% more in berthing dues if proportional to GRT, and on the order of 500-1000% more in capital than would a single clone of Red Jet 4 running a high speed service.

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          • Good factual post pm! And with other routes that use this type of ferry, the 20% additional usage, is what Dunoon really needs. Commuters I am sure would love the 7 minute crossing time. Is the Isle of Wight route exposed more than the Clyde route, as if they can run in worse conditions there, they would be ideal here?

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          • Has pm spoken to Clydeport about a speed exemption for the redjets. at the moment Argyll Flyer is subject to a speed restriction and cannot operate at her designed speed.

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          • It’s access to sheltered berthing that’s the problem. That and the determined reluctance of many users to accept that a ship is a ship and that pitching and rolling is what they do if you choose to use them in rough weather.

            The speed restriction is an anachronistic red herring, covered earlier in one of db’s posts, an imposition which has no relationship whatsoever to present circumstances. Compare with the congested Solent, where high speed ferries predominate, for instance.

            Sixty years ago, this same community protested very vocally at the withdrawal of their Edwardian antique winter paddle steamer and its substitution by the brand new, comfortable and much more economical “Maid” class of diesel ferries which, despite being excellent seaboats, were disparaged as “glorified motor boats”. The unpalatable fact was that the winter passenger ferry frequency was able to be sustained only by exploiting the Maids’ reduced fuel, crewing and maintenance costs. The opponents had no option but to get used to it but elements of the current campaign have similar Luddite hallmarks.

            And yes, DL, I can even imagine some drivers leaving the car, abandoning Western and joining that 20% uplift in carryings which a 7 minute crossing could entice.

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          • @Nigel Macleod: the problem with the Argyll Flyer is that she was designed to be run in open waters, not an estuary. Her wash at 12 knots is bad enough – at 20 knots it’s massive.

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          • High speed, high tech passenger feries will have my support. The options to Isle of Wight are tremendous – RoRo, Hovercraft, fast passenger ferries like Argyll Flyer, Catamerans – you name it, they have it.

            The minute you have good passenger ferries, the options are limitless – Kilcreggan, Blairmore, Helensburgh and beyond.Glasgow might be a bit far, but who knows.

            No more time or money should be spent on a vehicle ferry that is not needed. A fast passenger ferry will have little impact on Western and will serve the general public well.

            Just out of curiosity – why is Western not having a PSO placed on them? This seems to have been missed or forgotten about.

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          • JB – an enticing prospect, but to make it work there’d have to be a transport authority with sufficient clout, imagination and determination to get to grips with the need to integrate boats with landings, and with other public transport modes and to realise the possibilities of expanding the current run-down passenger services to their full potential in re-connecting the various communities that have become steadily more isolated from each other. And one critical factor that needs constant attention, people aren’t cattle.

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          • Jamie Black asks why Western haven’t had a PSO placed on them. Presumably because they are not operating a service that was put out to tender and run a completely unsubsidised service. As it is not, by definition, a monopoly (there is a road, and also a bus service for passengers, remember?) there is equally no necessity to have a PSO in place.

            I see some interesting comments appearing on the Cowal court “news” blog, hinting that along the lines of things I said here earlier, DFAG maybe aren’t telling us everything.

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          • Realistically (but I hope I am wrong) this whole fiasco looks like it could coast on for another year or so, before everyone realises what is actually feasible, rather than what could be viable. I read that Cllr. Breslin is having a tete-a-tete with Western Ferries, to try and resolve the issue. Maybe, just maybe, he is the one person that could steer this fiasco onto the right tracks. Past meetings with Western Ferries and Cllrs, have never been reported on, apart from one comment that a Cllr. made, stating that Western would never sail into Gourock linkspan. Time will tell.

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    • No it’s not, DL. Would that it was.

      The report proposes only a relatively slow, displacement hulled vessel, 14-15.5 knots, and with power of only 780 kW (about 1000 hp), capable only of keeping to the Victorian era crossing time.

      The Red Jets are typically capable of over 40 knots, with appropriate high speed hull designs and much greater engine power, for example 3500 kW (that’s 4700 hp) for Red Jet 4.

      You have to wonder at why Scottish ferry services are stuck in the past whilst all around the world high speed ferries are increasingly the norm. Dead hand, Caledonian MacBrayne, civil servants, are the words which come to mind.

      To their credit, Western Ferries attempted to open up this operation in the 1970s with the 30 knot Highland Seabird, a Norwegian built vessel of a pattern which was popular on coastal services in Norway (more challenging in many respects than the upper firth) and elsewhere, Some were used on the very exposed Guernsey – Jersey – St Malo crossings, for example.

      Highland Seabird held a Class IIA passenger certificate (i.e., was suitable for short international voyages) but despite demonstrating a record breaking Glasgow-Dunoon time of 42 minutes, which was to prove that by connecting with trains at Greenock Central, total journey times of 1 hour to and from Glasgow could easily be achieved, it was deemed by the “steamer” lobby to be unsuitable, dangerous, serious hardship would ensue – all the usual stuff – when it was proposed that WF be given the route. The “steamer” lobby won the day. A generation on and the tradition continues.

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        • One high speed ferry would deliver the same frequency of service as two ro/pax ferries with, in fact, a very considerable saving in fuel cost but with a crossing time of about a third as long.

          QED (above)

          But, NM, please feel free to provide a worked out analysis to support any rebuttal you might care to produce.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. There was a very telling sentence in the press statement from Gordon Ross of Western Ferries published in the Dunoon Observer’s article on 12th July. It was:
    ‘Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: “All the issues that Gordon Ross raises may need to be addressed but the important thing now is to see if any commercial operator is prepared to step forward.’
    It beggars belief that, with any sense of responsibility, Mr Russell could so blithely dismiss issues so profoundly serious as those Mr Ross has raised – and virtually say: ‘Never mind. Let’s see first if there are any mugs out there who won’t notice and will go for it.’

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

    • In the original terms of reference (still available on the Transport Scotland website) prior to the contract for the Feasibility Study being awarded to MVA, it was stated quite clearly that:

      “Data gathering from potential operators: as many potential operators as possible should be contacted; the study must not be limited to existing ferry operators on the Firth of Clyde”

      yet there doesn’t seem to be any mention of this at all in the report that they produced.

      So, were any ‘potential operators’ approached? If so, who were they? Does DFAG know? And if they do, why hasn’t that information been made available?

      Or, as is perhaps likely, did any ‘potential oparator’ who was approached say that they wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

      • Your wrong, they all said they were not interested. However i did hear that at one of the steering group meetings, the consultants did say that the only company to show any interest was western ferries. Perhaps that is why the likes of ferryman and pro Kay had this removed from the final report.
        There is some irony to the idea that Western ferries could be the action groups saviour when they spend so much time criticising them and their boss.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

        • So, Peter, I am right. Nobody would touch it with a barge pole, as I said?

          I was rather hoping that ‘ferryman’ might have answered with some detail.

          I said elsewhere that it looked as if the report had been tailored to suit those who wanted it. Looks like I was right about that too?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

          • I think you are right.
            But we have to watch out though, ferryman might be concerned that we are convening an alien covern.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

        • And if the consultant’s report has mis-information and missing facts in it, we can all now see why Western are so scathing about it., especially if they are serious about tendering again.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

        • I’ll not hold my breath. I have to say that I like the idea of Western running a car ferry service to suit DFAG. Creaming off 56% of their own traffic to themselves, AND get a public subsidy for the passenger element. That would satisfy their criteria, but can you imagine all the moans coming from Messrs Kay, Trybus, Rice, et al?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  16. Still no details from Newsie about how she took verbatim notes (notes are different from recordings). I’m agog with excitement as even Hansard folk would hesitate to claim that. Not a single word missed from these notes and most people are reckoned to talk at 180+ words per minute. Or was it a lie?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  17. No. But it’s interesting nonetheless Robert. If a professional journalist claims to have covered a meeting in a particular way, which frankly seems very unlikely, are people not entitled to ask questions? Verbatim is a pretty straightforward term, meaning ‘word for word’. Such notes would be a valuable resource. If they existed – but we all know they don’t. So the person who wrote this story lied – and that is interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  18. Looks like the D.F.A.G. have run out of steam! Their website has no news items (not even the recent public meeting) and no events listed. Their Facebook page last messages were in 2012. Is this the main reason that there was such a drastically poor turn out at the public meeting? Even the C. Courier never produced their promised online petition or whatever earlier this year/last year. Seems they are not at all happy that the Dunoon Observer never printed their press statement this week, but re-ran a seven year old report on a previous public meeting instead……………

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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