Trouble in Transport Scotland on Deputy First Minister’s documented offer to Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group

Highlands and islands Conservative MSP, Jamie McGrigor, has had a written answer from Transport Minister, Keith Brown, to the Parliamentary Question he recently lodged.

The question was put in the wake of the Deputy First Minister’s formally expressed intent to include Steering Group members along with Transport Scotland officials, in pre-tender discussions with potential bidders for any state-subsidised service on the route.

The Steering Group includes representatives of Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde councils and the Gourock Dunoon Ferry Action Group.

The McGrigor question

‘Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the letter dated 1 July 2013 to the Gourock Dunoon Ferries Service Steering Group from the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, what (a) level and (b) type of involvement it envisages for the group in meeting with potential operators and whether it will involve action groups for other ferry services in a similar way.’

The Transport Minister’s response

(S4W-16541)
‘Mr Keith Brown MSP :

‘In her letter dated 1 July 2013, to the Gourock Dunoon Ferry Services Steering Group, the Deputy First Minister explained the steps that would be taken following the publication of the MVA feasibility report.

‘Transport Scotland will be engaging with potential operators, to gauge market interest in the route. A timetable for this to occur has yet to be finalised.

‘The Deputy First Minister indicated that the Gourock Dunoon Ferry Services Steering Group, would be involved in this process in some way. Options for the level and type of involvement will be considered by Ministers before the start of the consultation/engagement process.’

The immediate issue

Firstly, the question was not answered by the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Investment, the Deputy First Minister, whose action was its focus. It was answered by her junior, Transport Minister, Keith Brown.

It was the Deputy First Minister who had made the commitment in question. Why did she not speak for it herself?

Secondly, Mr Brown’s ‘answer’ does not even attempt to answer the plain and explicit issues raised in Jamie McGrigor’s question.

This is an avoidance worthy of keen attention.

The MSP asked:

‘what (a) level and (b) type of involvement it envisages for the group in meeting with potential operators and whether it will involve action groups for other ferry services in a similar way.’

There are three issues raised here:

  • the level of proposed involvement by members of the Steering Group for the feasibility study – the Deputy First Minister had indicated that they would be involved with her Transport Scotland officials in pre-tendering discussions with potential bidders for the service contract;
  • the nature of that involvement;
  • the widening of such involvement in pre-tendering to local ferry action groups concerned with other routes.

The question addresses none of these.

It is no more than a dead-bat exercise in stonewalling.

The big question is ‘Why?’

Given the failure to get an answer from the Scottish Government on the issues he raised in his question, Jamie McGrigor is to submit a follow-up question in an effort to get the answers.

So what’s happening?

Why did the First Minister not offer the intended detail of her commitment in response to Jamie McGrigor’s utterly factual question?

Why did the Transport Minister choose not to address the practical issues on which Jamie McGrigor had enquired?

No one had asked the Deputy First Mister for the commitment she gave. She made it voluntarily and out of the blue. This means that it was not a compromise position on a difficult issue but a starting position towards new procedural values.

Nicola Sturgeon knew what she meant and presumably meant what she said. Ministerial communications are never unthought or uncrafted. This particular commitment was a consciously written version of an earlier verbal commitment to which the Deputy First Minister herself refers in the paragraph of her letter quoted under Background information, below.

Yet here we see the Transport Minister performing a fast u-turn in offering no detail on the questions asked by Jamie McGrigor and patently rowing backwards hard, dampening down expectations of the promised involvement.

He will not have been empowered to do this, to offer this response, without the consent of his boss, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Investment, Nicola Sturgeon.

Interpretations

Logically, there are only three ways of explaining this curious behaviour:

  • The Deputy First Minister has been unable to assert her higher authority within her own department, with her will to open up the tendering process subverted from within, a process she has had to accept.
  • The Deputy First Minister gave her written commitment without necessary thought to the consequences; and has licensed the u-turn delivered not by herself but by her junior minister – a face saving device.
  • The Deputy First Minister never meant the commitment she gave; and made it with political intent to pacify local activists to protect or buy ‘Yes’ votes in the September 2014 independence referendum.

The concern is that whichever of these interpretation is the case, it questions the authority, the competence or the integrity of the second-highest ranking minister in the Scottish Government, the Cabinet Secretary in direct charge of the campaign for Scottish independence and positioned to lead an independent Scotland when the current First Minister retires.

We can have no idea which of these interpretations is correct.

We are hearing from authoritative sources in Holyrood that the Deputy First Minister’s commitment to the involvement of the Steering Group was made only as a political move.

It is said to have been no more than a way of letting the Dunoon-Ferry Action Group get ‘from the horses’ mouths’ [potential bidders] the confirmation that there is no commercial interest from potential ferry operators in bidding for the service they have been campaigning to achieve.

We find this hard to accept.

It would show political weakness in the preference for the easy deception to the straight laying out of the known facts.

It would signal a culture at the heart of the Scottish Government capable of deliberately misleading for political ends. Whatever our differences have come to be, this is not a culture we want to contemplate as guiding the strategies of the government of this country.

Background information

If this story is new to you, the information below will give you the context.

The Deputy First Minister’s commitment

The final report of a feasibility study – on a competing private sector vehicle service between Gourock and Dunoon carrying a state subsidised passenger service – was published on 1st July 2013.

The Deputy First Minister sent a covering letter with the report to the members of the Steering Group she had set up to guide the study [which was quickly discredited for its incompetence]. The Group’s members, along with Transport Scotland officials are representatives of Argyll and Bute and Inverclye Councils and the Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group.

In paragraph five of that letter – and the emphasis on one passage is ours, Ms Sturgeon said:

‘It was beyond the scope of the study to consider whether feasibility on paper will translate into commercial attractiveness sufficient for one or more operator to bid on this basis for a future tendered contract. Any potential operator will make their own assessment of the market potential and the likelihood and consequences of a competitive response. As I said at the last meeting, I am therefore keen for my officials in Transport Scotland to engage with potential operators, as they would in preparation for any new tendering exercise, and I indicated that I would like it to be open to the Steering Group to be involved in that process in some way. That is something we will take forward in the coming months.’

The democratising intent

In an article published on 7th August – Deputy First Minister set to bring welcome local engagement in ferry tendering processes – For Argyll welcomed the Deputy First Minister’s stated intention to open up part of the pre-tendering processes to engagement by local authorities and by local action groups.

It was clear that this sort of action could never be defended as limited to one situation and one group, so the Deputy First Minister’s commitment obviously envisaged a commendable move to new approaches to tendering public sector contracts, inclusive of local interests.

Comments to this article, invited and voluntary, demonstrated, as we had done, pitfalls to be avoided in the execution of this commitment while also welcoming the greater democracy on offer.

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51 Responses to Trouble in Transport Scotland on Deputy First Minister’s documented offer to Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group

  1. Now believe or not – I’m not un-intelligent – but I fail to see what the issue is at stake here.

    The written statement is quite unequivocal “Options for the level and type of involvement will be considered by Ministers before the start of the consultation/engagement process”. ie they have not yet concluded on the level and type of involvement but will do so before the start of the
    consultation/engagement process.

    You must have spent ages on this – trying to create a stushie out of …. nothing. I have to say that your on-going obsession with trying to find fault with EVERYTHING the SNP do is both unhealthy and boring. You’ll be writing long-winded articles about the SNP making a typo about a date for a meeting next….

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

    • Look at the dates. The letter was written at the start of July and we are fast approaching September. And the officials are still considering what is going to happen about engagement. What have they been up to. Perhaps that is only why you can only see 4 fingers on a Scottish government employee, the other is finding somewhere warm to hide.

      Also there was no response on the issue for engagement for other island communities. Why do the people in dunoon get special treatment. Are they some way afflicted for having the most frequent ferry service in Scotland. I could only wish the Arran had such a service.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  2. Did you even bother to look?

    Mr Salmond added: “Scottish independence would require a rethinking of the structures of the rest of the UK. It would be for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to decide how this came about, but the end result would surely reflect the needs of the English regions better than the current arrangements.”

    http://www.snp.org/blog/post/2012/feb/fm-returns-liverpool-make-independence-case

    or

    “It is strongly arguable, in my view, that the relative neglect of the English regions and the devolved nations at this time was partly caused by the centralisation of UK policy-making. It is a centralisation which is matched by much UK media. For example none of the national UK press give a perspective rooted in the north of England, even the formerly titled Manchester Guardian.

    “And while devolution has provided a partial remedy to that centralisation in Scotland, it has not yet done so here in England.

    “It is not surprising, therefore, that there seems to be a major loss of faith among people in England about the current constitutional arrangements for the UK.”

    http://www.snp.org/blog/post/2012/feb/scottish-independence-good-england

    Both pages discovered after approximately thirty seconds of googling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  3. There is about a year before we put our ‘X’ in one of the two choices and if this SNP administration can conjour the town centre-to-town centre car ferry ‘rabbit’ out of the hat , the cynics among us would think that they have ‘bought’ the people of Dunoon. The present passenger ferry contract is six years and we’re two year in. Instead of paying a fortune for consultants fees , would it be entirely possible to re-activate the ‘Saturn’ in the mean time. Put her into dry dock , get her certificated again , then we can worry about what happens in four years time.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 10

    • You wouldn’t be concerned at the Saturn, together with the landing arrangements, being less than passenger-friendly? You want to commit passengers for the trains to this ‘experience’ for four years, so is there no hope at all that the current operator will bring in better quality boats within the contract period?
      I wonder if Dunoon would be seen as the retro-town, with a ferry experience to demonstrate how times have changed (like going for a nostalgia trip on a preserved railway). And to emphasise this, the Jupiter would cross paths with the WF boats.
      Unless, of course, you just want to have a car ferry in ‘downtown’ Dunoon because you think that Hunters Quay is impossibly far away?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  4. Total non-story. They haven’t decided what to do yet but when they do they’ll decide whats the most appropriate way to engage the action group. Thats all the response says.
    If they haven’t decided what to do yet how can they spell out the level and type of involvement the group will get – one follows the other.

    Transport Scotland is Keith Browns remit. What is so strange about him being the one who answers. He’s bound to be the one who’s closer to the current situation.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 10

    • This was a comment made by Nicola and it was her letter, is she not prepared to back up her statements with a clear statement saying what she meant and what engagement is she going to give us who live in other communities?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 7

  5. There is concern that Western Ferries might still make legal challenge if a vehicular service was put on the “town centre to town centre route”.
    If this were to happenn then Gordon Ross would have to reconsider resigning, as he is on the Board of the PA23 Bid Committee, and this committee and the BID is supposedly to make improvements to the town centre to attract locals AND visitors. The Dunoon businesses have always maintained that vehicle ferry service and a fit-for-purpose passenger service must land at Dunoon, not Hunters Quay, if they are to increase/sustain business. Are those businesses that voted YES to the BID, aware that a Board member is totally oppposed to the provision of such a ferry service?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

    • ‘Totally opposed’? are you sure? I would have thought that this is highly unlikely, and that he could well be a very competent advocate for a decent passenger ferry service.
      And to my mind vehicle ferries on the ‘traditional’ route were developed at the expense of the foot passenger’s ‘journey experience’, particularly the transfer between boat and train at Gourock.
      There’s a need for people with the unblinkered vision to push for really good passenger landing facilities, and easy transfer to the train.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

      • Western wanted to run a fast pax-only service in the 1970s, but popular opinion was against it. The main reason for opposition seems to have been down to how reliable it would have been in winter; plus ça change…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

        • Yes DB there was a formal public enquiry which concluded which that a passenger only service using vessels of the type we currently have would be unreliably it also concluded that removing the town center vehicle service would be hugely damaging to the community.

          So now we have an unreliable and very damaging service!!!

          Probably most people in Cowal don’t directly use the ferry services frequently. However that is a little akin to being on the beach rather than in the sea and being unaware of the approaching tsunami.

          Profits/wages in Cowal don’t increase with inflation the ferry prices/profits do and most things in Cowal are affected by the ferry prices whether you go on them yourselves or not.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

          • ferryman,
            As I said a few weeks ago, the problem with all you people who bang on about a “town centre” service is that you fail to accept that your town centre terminal is in the worst possible location with regard to shelter for berthing. A&B Council’s squandering of £12 million pounds on a car loading slip at the same location doesn’t alter that inescapable geographical fact.

            Even the streakers, excellent though they were, were of a design severely compromised by this crucial limitation, their predecessors, the clumsy 1953 hoist loaders – obsolete and incapable of servicing the demand for car carrying as soon as they were built – even more so.

            You’ve been saddled with a Victorian setup which for the past sixty years has been an archetypal historical aberration. Let it go. Demand something better.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

          • Ferryman haven’t seen you here for a while. How we have missed you.

            So it’s western ferries fault now for the wages in Dunoon. Tell me what businesses have not reduced their prices. How are you food bills, electricity bills, clothes prices, petrol prices, council tax etc etc.

            Again western ferries fares are still cheaper than those charged by Argyll and their fares are subsidised.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

          • Ferryman, yes, I remember the public enquiry well. Western were slated for the “tubs” they operated on their service. The “tubs” are now with Argyll Ferries. What a change in a few decades!

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

        • The fast boat that Western Ferries demonstrated on the route, Highland Seabird, was later sold on to operate successfully a March to November service on the long distance exposed sea crossings between St Malo/Carteret/Granvile and Jersey, Guernsey and Sark.

          But the very same Seabird wasn’t considered to be “seaworthy” enough for Dunoon…(that is, according to a vocal element in Dunoon, not according to the Board of Trade who granted her a Class IIa passenger certificate to operate on a whole series of short international routes, including a scheduled service between Scotland and the Irish Republic during WF’s ownership).

          It’s a pity she wasn’t “seaworthy” enough for some locals, because WF proved that by connecting with trains at Custom House Quay for Greenock Central, a record breaking Dunoon-Glasgow Central time of 42 minutes was attainable and that a 60 minutes scheduled time would have been entirely feasible.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

          • Are we talking about the same vessel, the one that got into trouble on the Mersey in 1982?

            http://homepage.ntlworld.com/angela.wood850/Wyre%20Heal%20eBook/13%20-%20Mersey%20Ferries/13-Mersey%20Ferries.htm

            “Another experimental craft was the “Highland Seabird”, a high-speed catamaran, which was leased to the Ferries and used for a short while in 1982. Like the “Channel Belle” she was small, highly manoeuvrable and very economical. It was hoped that this type of craft, if the trials were successful, would form the next generation of ferry boats but unfortunately, her size and stability (or lack of) especially in rough weather, were her downfall. On one occasion, when operating in gale force conditions, she became trapped behind the Princess Landing Stage at Liverpool’s Pier Head and the “Royal Iris” came to her (and her passengers’) rescue. Needless to say, the trials were unsuccessful. Soon after she was returned to her owners”

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

          • Ok for the Channel Islands and, Seabird’s sister vessels by the dozen, Norwegian coastal services, but not ok for Dunoon or the Scousers…

            You can have it your way, ferryman, but you pay for it. I don’t see why I should pay a ha’penny to support your unnecessary, inefficient duplicate ferry service. I’m not alone.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  6. Pm remember this well. There are of course, far better designed pax boats now, and as previously discussed here, capable of providing a service to Gourock in just 8 minutes, and in most weathers. If the DFAG had pursued both options, we might have been on the way to be getting a modern service. Now,everyone is stuck in a time warp for goodness knows how long. Ferryman and his group have a lot to answer for!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • You ignore the Scottish Government report which proves you can have a car ferry for the same price as a reliable passenger service.

      Of course you can have a reliable passenger only service – the point is we DON’T have one.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

      • Ferryman, I don’t recall the report saying that costs would be the same. Obviously berthing charges would be higher for a larger ship, as would fuel usage. Is this to do with the vehicles reducing any subsidy paid? Anyway, will the DFAG pursue “plan b” if the vehicular service does not materialise for any reason – I.E. a passenger only service with suitable boats and landing facilities fit for the 21st century.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

        • Dunoon Lad

          You seem to comment a lot but obviously from your last comment you don’t really know what you are talking about.

          EU regulations prevent a vehicle service from being subsidised. The Scottish Government report found that a vehicle service would not require an additional subsidy – so rules satisfied.

          Of course that is exactly what Professor Neil Kay has being saying for years. Possibly that is why the Scottish Government has asked him to join a panel of experts on ferries ?

          You will find his website here
          http://www.brocher.com/Ferries/expensiveferry.htm

          He seems to think we pay more than we should for our vehicle transport across the Clyde. Do you agree or disagree?

          If you think all is fine I repeat my request for anybody to show a Scottish company making a 28% profit on turnover.

          If you can’t do that I’ll accept UK or EU ?

          P.S. Don’t forget a town centre vehicle service would repay it subsidy, the passenger service as indicated by Neil Kay and others is a disaster.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

          • According to the mva report, you are wrong, the additional revenue from vehicles is taken as profit by the operator.

            Also the MVA report used western ferries fares as the basis for their calculations.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      • Ferryman I am sure that western must really appreciate all the PR you do for Argyll. You spend so much time slating the passenger service that more people are using Mcgills and western. Carry on in this fashion there will be no one using Argyll’s service and no need for it after 2017.

        You are making Western so much money you should ask for commission.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  7. Robert – Ferryman’s link shows an interesting photo of the Woodside “pontoon” type landing stage. The whole length of the walkway is completly covered, and this structure is several years old. This should be the standard for passengers now whether its a passenger service, or like in Oban a covered airport style gangway to the Vehicle/passenger ship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    • Dunoon Lad do you really want to burden the taxpayer with supporting this when obviously as they could get a reliable town centre vehicle service for free?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

      • The passenger service is not free it will always cost.

        Tell us something ferry man would western survive losing all the market share to a competitor. If not you have replaced a two vessel service for a current service level of six boats and will the new service provide the free ambulance service provided by western?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  8. Why oh why would anyone not want a covered walkway for passengers going onto either a passenger or vehicle/passenger ferry, and even give the idea a thumbs down?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • Because they don’t think public transport should be fit for the 21st century? While they are planning to build a covered pontoon they can move it next to the head of the platforms beside the ticket office where it belongs.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      • I agree absolutely that that’s ‘where it belongs’ – and there’s the rub – the likes of Ferryman with their single minded pursuit of a vehicle ferry don’t seem to understand that the vehicle ramp at Gourock just isn’t conveniently located for vehicle ferry foot passengers to transfer easily to & from the trains.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

        • The truth is they should have moved the station closer to the ferry terminal when they were redeveloping it; when that was being planned the vehicle ferry was still running and all was (relatively) well with the world. Shifting the buffers 300yds east would have freed up a huge amount of real estate for more car parking, or more realistically a supermarket/hotel/whatever.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

          • Now, as I understand it, the existing station has been ‘done up’ at considerable cost to Network Rail / Scotrail / us, but there’s a crying need for coordinated thinking, and it puzzles me that SPT haven’t been taking the initiative.
            Perhaps they’re so Glasgow oriented that the’re just not up to the job of encouraging ‘joined up’ train / ferry / public transport links between Inverclyde and Argyll & Bute.
            Over to Transport Scotland (the Government – it’s your move, if you’ve got what it takes).

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  9. Ferryman, yes, I knew that a vehicle and passenger service would always cost the taxpayer in a subsidy, but the meetings I have attended and comments online from me members of the DFAG suggest that any profit from vehicles could reduce the subsidy to zero, which is not true. In fact this untrue fact was told to the public at the last meeting by the experts at the tables. The covered walkway I and others are suggesting is for the “upgraded” facilities whenever they are agreed on, and where they will be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • ferrman says:
      August 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm
      Dunoon Lad do you really want to burden the taxpayer with supporting this when obviously as they could get a reliable town centre vehicle service for free? – As my comment above – I take it that you meant to add “apart from the passenger subsidy” ?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  10. Ferryman, I really think that the main issue here is that the question “is there an actual need” for a second vehicle service, as far as I am aware, has never been answered by anyone. This very important question will no doubt be answered, when any tenders go out inviting companies to show an interest in the route. The shipping companies will decide if indeed there is any need, and therefore worthwhile operating the route. This will be the point when everyone can then move on, and hopefully resolve all the current uncertainty. Just because the report said it would be viable, does not make it a certain business case to set up a new service.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • It’s a moot point; even if TS did put out a tender no-one will bid because there’s no business case for buying new vessels on a 6 year contract, and no-one has spare tonnage sitting around waiting to do the job. As observed by the Small Ferries Project, unless TS order ships(or via a proxy like CMAL) there will not be a vehicle service as it does not make any business sense.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

      • More like why would anyone bid to run it for the miserly profits a one-route operation might make and getting mixed up in the middle of this vipers nest and the likely competitive response by Western. I can’t see it being worth the hassle.
        DFAG should organise themselves into an operating company and give it a shot. Members could take a financial stake in the business and run it not for profit. Like any operator though, they should be bearing at least some of the risk and losses if it goes wrong.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

        • The Isle of Islay – with less than half the population of Dunoon and dispersed across the island – is prepared to go with a community owned ferry as a complement to the CalMac service which they see as inadequate to their needs. They believe in the business case they have put together and are prepared to put the money in and take the risk.
          While we cannot ourselves find any commercial logic whatsoever in what the DGFAG is campaigning for, we have always felt that if they genuinely believe such a service would make the profits they claim – there would be very little risk in doing it themselves.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

          • Interesting comment Newsie.

            Now by the same token re your “serious” article on the regeneration of Dunoon itself – largely based on wooden swings – now if you believe that your “serious” solution is a runner – why don’t YOU make the business case and invest in your “serious” solution.

            After all if you genuinely believe in your “serious” solution there would seem to be very little risk in doing it yourself. And just think of all the money you’d make!!! :)

            In your own time Newsie….

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

          • Does “community owned ferry” mean the Islay community raises capital and accepts the business risk in a conventional sense? Good luck to them if they do; they’ll need it because in competing with Calmac they’ve the archetypal monopoly to contend with. Or does the community expect the rest of us to stump up the capital in which case moral hazard comes to mind.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Ferryman continues to make the case that businesses in Dunoon want a vehicle service into Dunoon. Perhpas they could pull their money and invest in a new service.

          However, I would imagine that the action group would be lucky if they managed to raise an eyebrow.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • Here is a question why should the Scottish government buy new vessels? Western Ferries have bought their own vessels so if another company wants to operate in competition then they should on a fair and equal competitive basis provide their own vessels.

      The Scottish government can’t supply vehicle ferries as this is outside their remit and the purpose of the subsidy. Oh yes there is no need for a second service.

      Whilst the action group ache about fares, the feasibility study stated that in order to achieve any market share then the town ferry service would have to copy western ferries fares and drop cowal ferries’ fares by almost 20%. Perhaps ferryman could comment on that.

      The action group believe that reliability can only be achieved by larger vehicle ferries however the feasibility study included a design for a reliable passenger service.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

      • Why should the Scottish Government (we) buy new vessels?

        While we’re about it, how about kicking Calmac off the other busy Clyde crossings and let Western Ferries loose on them – no subsidies, no taxpayer owned vessels, efficient operation, cheaper fares by far (compare WF’s £ per mile fares against all of the SUBSIDISED Calmac Clyde service fares – shocking).

        The madness has been escalating to the extent that Calmac’s subsidy in real terms is six times what it was 20 years ago. Anyone have a good reason? At what point do we say enough is enough?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

          • Robert, yes, Western were ready to go with a service, but were waiting to see if RET was going to be extended to Arran. I believe it is, and a second ship is to be added to the route (I think this is correct, from memory)

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

          • Yes WF had, indeed indicated that. And then, lo and behold, a new ferry got ordered unnecessarily by Calmac for Islay and the Isle of Arran is magically released to serve as second boat for Arran in place place of the weather restricted Saturn.

            Anti-competitive, all subsidised, all at taxpayers expense.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

          • Hebridean Isles plus Isle of Arran seemed like a pretty good Islay service to me. If freight demand exceeded their capacity, why were they both tied up all night?

            Edit PS:
            My main point was that the appearance of the Isle of Arran as the second vessel on the Arran service has for the present scuppered any ambitions Western Ferries may have had of competing on this route. This block on WF’s unsubsidised entry to the Arran service is payed for by taxpayer subsidies to Calmac. For Calmac, it was tactically fortuitous, to say the least, that the Isle of Arran was released by the arrival of the new Finlaggan at Islay.

            Goodness knows what the wider ramifications would have been for Calmac if they had an efficient, unsubsidised, customer focussed competitor proving that they could run profitably on the Arran service. Pardon my cynicism and all that but …

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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