Coruisk fails the weather test along with the ‘bathtub boats’

Argyll Ferries passenger ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon is currently suspended, with a Review at 5pm – when the winds are supposed to be even stronger.

This sees MV Coruisk, which was added as winter support for the route only yesterday, failing to cope with the adverse weather every bit as completely as the company’s derided ‘bathtub boats’.

Meanwhile, the private sector Western Ferries is sailing away as normal on its own route between the two towns.

Everyone who knew anything about the water told the Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group that weather and sea conditions render any ferry service less than 100% reliable; but they insisted that Dunoon’s amour propre required no less than a road over water.

Knowing best, they campaigned against a Scottish government primarily concerned – at all costs – to protect the independence vote for 2014 and with a local SNP MSP in fear of losing his seat against opposition from Dunoon.

Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, therefore promised, against advice, that the Action Group could have the MV Coruisk added to the Argyll Ferries fleet to support the winter timetable.

And today Coruisk has jibbed at the first water fence.

Dunoon is already the most massively overprovisioned in ferry services in the entire UK. The finances of this special treatment given to the town reward consideration.

Argyll Ferries is contracted by the Scottish Government to provide a two-boat passenger ferry service on the town centres route. It could not have absorbed the cost of leasing and operating a third boat for the winter service; nor could it have been asked to do so.

So, although the Coruisk has to be leased by Argyll Ferries to keep everything above board, the Scottish Government is picking up the tab for its leasing and operating costs.

So during the period of the Coruisk’s deployment to do four returns a day, Dunoon is being given a three boat passenger ferry service on the town centres route. Yesterday evening there was a period while all three were in service.

The economics are immediately questionable – sharing the traffic on an already underused service between the operating costs of three boats, one – Coruisk -  a heavier and more fuel hungry one.

Moreover, Coruisk is also available to deliver additional daily sailings should one or both of the specialist passenger ferries have to cancel sailings.

A fairly calculated estimate of the additional cost to the Scottish Government of the provision of the Coruisk to Dunoon at this period is half a million pounds.

For the hundred days the Coruisk will deliver, this is £5k per day; and likely to amount to £50 additional subsidy per head.

Today’s cancellation of all three boats, particularly with Western Ferries fleet sailing away while the Argyll Ferries fleet remains tied up, reinforces the vulnerability of this longer and more exposed town centre route into the foolishly misplaced Council linkspan in Dunoon.

Governments on a political agenda do daft things and always with ‘other people’s money’.

A  footnote is that the Action Group had planned a part on board today to celebrate getting Corjuisk out of the government. Ironically, that party now looks threatened, with the cancellations and may have to take place on the bus ferrying the party-going passengers to the Western Ferries service.

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55 Responses to Coruisk fails the weather test along with the ‘bathtub boats’

  1. I’d be curious to know what criteria are used to decide when to cancel services; the tubs use windspeed, cancelling Coruisk on this criteria rather than the judgement of the master rather defeats the purpose of having her on charter.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  2. It would be interesting to know exactly why the Coruisk has been cancelled. Is it because of the position of the linkspan, and the direction and speed of the wind relative to this? Or is it because of the design of the ship which is the problem, as the ship is very high, and more likely to catch the wind, compared to the low Western style ships? Or is it the sea conditions on the river that the ship cannot handle?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

      • its not that, the coruisk has always struggled on the rothesay wemyss bay run in bad weather for years, its just not that capable at berthing in high winds and seas, its fine sailing on board just cant get alongside piers

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

        • It’s a dud design which, in addition to producing its all too evident berthing issues, was the direct cause of it running over rocks and destroying one of its propulsion units when it was only a few weeks old. A former boss of Calmac stated publicly that they would have preferred the Coruisk to be Voith Schneider propelled (and consequently highly manoeuverable) like the streakers and all their double-enders, but issues to do with producing a hull form suited to the VSP precluded this, a reason I find utterly impossible to comprehend.

          The Argyle and Bute have an “improved” version of the Coruisk’s propulsion system but it wasn’t improved enough to avoid the need to add nearly 20% to the scheduled crossing time compared to what could be maintained routinely by the streakers, the Pioneer and for that matter, with their primitive 1950s manoeuvering configurations, the Glen Sannox and the old ABCs.

          Progress … Calmac-style.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. I have to disagree, again, with the anti Dunoon line taken by For Argyll. It’s fair enough to laud Western Ferries for continuing to run on their much more sheltered route. But it’s wrong to have a go at what Dunoon, a commuter town, needs. We’re losing people who commute, and the economic benefit they bring, because of the unreliability of the current passenger service.

    The change to the current ridiculous boats has been a catastrophe for Dunoon, one where the effect has still to be fully realised. Town centre to town centre reliability was the cornerstone of this town’s claim to be a credible commuter route. We used to have a mostly guaranteed 1 hour and 13 minute service to Glasgow. Now, that has gone and using the bus/ferry/bus/train service takes at least an hour more. Why should this be remotely acceptable?

    Today was exceptionally bad weather so the Coruisk will help till March. And it’s mince to say it costs £5k a day. Most of the Coruisk’s costs would have been incurred anyway sitting doing nothing in Troon.

    If For Argyll is to genuinely reflect it’s name, it needs to give Dunoon support when it deserves it, and it needs it on this issue.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 30

    • That’s mince, the Coruisk would not have burnt so much fuel or required as many men as compared to being laid up. Not forgetting the additional berthing dues. Oh yes there are the other additional operating costs to consider.

      The fuel cost alone will be over £1,000 per day.

      This is not about the marginal costs as compared to having her laid up. Argyll ferries will have to show the full costs including the lease charge of using the Coruisk. As she is on standby for the dunoon service all of these will be apportioned to Argyll. Or do you expect Calmac to bear the costs of this deployment, if so Mr Ross at western will have a field day.

      Perhaps you should engage brain before finger.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 27 Thumb down 7

    • To support western is now anti dunoon, is that the same argument used by the SNP. Ie if you are not for independence then you are not Scottish.

      With the bus service the reliability is much better and whilst it is a bit longer, it’s still a much better alternative when compared to Bute or Cumbrae, no ferry then you are truly marooned. Tell me are people in Bute leaving because of the cancellations to that route?

      Stop spouting this rubbish, you should know better.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 25 Thumb down 9

      • If you don’t put Scotland first you put if further down your priority list be it South East England etc.
        Dunoon folk are entiltled to ask for what they believe is important. Maybe Western following discussions would head for the train station at Gourock and join up the service? It would be called a compromise. It may take 5 years but Dunoon folk who are pedestrians would need to accept a MCGills journey on the bus from this end. Maybe the frequency would increase or extended. This would also support the train to Glasgow.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

          • What I was suggesting is the option for a passenger to be able to link with bus, train or travel by car. Currently we have split services.

            As I said above the issue is to compromise by all.

            Cheers some of us work shifts back off my tea break.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

        • @ H20 – Western have already stated that they will not use Gourock. Longer crossing.? But more importantly massive berthing fees, and they would be looking for exclusive use. There would also be the upkeep of the very long approach road to the linkspan. Not sure if this is a public road. No matter, it will not happen unless Western were to get free access, as I read that’s what they wanted when they were asked to use Dunoon linkspan.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

    • Mr Breslin

      you state that today was “exceptionally bad weather”

      What was exceptional about it? as far as i could see it was just a fairly normal bad weather day for the area with a fairly normal south westerly wind such weather which is usually repeated several times a month at this time of year, so what was exceptional?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 2

    • Cllr. Breslin – “their much more sheltered route” says it all. At last someone in authority has got it! Dunoon is too exposed to try and run “normal” type ferries. What is needed, and has been written here many times, is suitable purpose built passenger ferries (as mentioned in the consultant’s report) with suitable purpose built landing facilities, at either Dunoon or the more sheltered Hunter’s Quay, direct to the railhead at Gourock. Suitable passenger ferries work in other areas with similar sea conditions as the Clyde (again, as stated in the report) How many more years is everyone going to waste over this? Get to parliament and demand this, before the service closes for good. The Government picked the cheapest tender, and got the worst service. What did they expect? Let W.F. show us how it should be done. Yes, it will cost more to get going, but it’s a no brainer.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

      • DunoonLad – What makes you think that the Dunoon roro ramp is so exposed? The breakwater and the hinterland shelter the landing from East clockwise to about Northnorthwest, which is much the same as the shelter at Hunters Quay.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

        • @JimB – well, we need someone to come up with the reason Argyll Ferries seem to cancel their services more than Western, even with a vehicular ferry. As I asked previously, is it the linkspan position, the wind direction, the ship, or the river conditions that are causing cancellation when Western continue. Remember, historically, Hunter’s Quay was always the pier that was used in bad weather, when Dunoon and Kirn could not be used. As I say, the experts (if there are any) should come up with the reasons why Hunter’s Quay, and McInroy’s Point appear to be usable in most weathers, when Dunoon and Gourock are not, or is it the ship designs that are the problem? Surely everyone agrees that something is fundamentally wrong with the Argyll Ferries route, when both small and large ships are not able to run, when Western’s ships do, considering they are all sailing generally in the same part of the same river. Can’t be rocket science to find the reason(s), and this has really been ongoing since Western started 40 years ago.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

          • I dont think there are any problems with using the gourock pier, its fairly sheltered, the rothesay ferry redirects there fairly often in bad weather when it cant get into wemyss bay

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

    • We have shown earlier that Dunoon’s ferry services deliver 80% over-provision.
      Commuters from Dunoon live all over the place, not only in different parts of the town but in different parts of Cowal.
      The town centre is not actually any more universally convenient a place for a ferry terminal than any other location in or near the town.
      Its advantage is that it benefits town centre businesses by delivering them a captive audience – or, frankly, hostages, since such visitors have no choice but to make what they can of a markedly unattractive town centre with a poor overall retail and service offer.
      The serious disadvantage of a town centre ferry service is that the town centre is little more than a ferry terminal, with redundant marshalling areas to service once and never-were vehicle ferries.
      We are far from anti-Dunoon – but we are opposed to the disproportionate attention and public money being spent on additional services for which Dunoon has absolutely no demonstrable need; and for which there is no semblance of a business case.
      Dunoon as a town needs most of all to make shift to help itself, to develop its experiential offer for residents and visitors rather than perpetually whine about not having what it does not need.
      Western Ferries runs a shuttle service early-to-late, seven days a week, that is almost never weather affected. With McGill’s bus services, it can deliver passengers direct from Dunoon to the rail head st Gourock, without the need to set foot on the ferry.
      Argyll Ferries’ passenger ferries and their crews have been badly maligned in the service of the campaign for an additional vehicle and passenger ferry service Dunoon wants but for which it could never prove a need.
      There is no doubt that the crews of the Argyll Ferries boats have been so intimidated by the strategic outcries in Dunoon about uncomfortable passages in rough weather that their skippers choose not to sail when they often could – because they dare not add to the complaints, fictions and opprobrium they would be sure to receive.
      The Ali Cat, an ugly looking boat and skittish in strong winds, is nevertheless no worse than the light Gourock-Kilcreggan passenger boat, bought from previous service on the Isle of Wight run on the wealthy south coast. So Dunoon was not abused in any relative sense by being served by such a vessel.
      And the Argyll Flyer is a decent boat in anybody’s terms.
      The thing about boats is that they move across water – which itself moves.
      It continues to be bizarre that a town on the Firth of Clyde seems to have no rooted knowledge of the water.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 5

      • I like your description of the town centre ferry passengers as “hostages”. Scottish steamer ports have had trade directed to their doorstep for so long that they only see their business interest being put in peril by any forward thinking.

        How many ferry terminals have been squeezed into town harbours where there is little room for their main source of income year round, i.e. the commercial vehicles that come and go daily.

        It’s time for the Government to stop listening to councils and begin building roads and ferry terminals based on traffic surveys.

        A passenger ferry service to Cowal from the railhead at Gourock is desirable to many, but running it into Dunoon’s exposed landing is absolute folly when it could run to the more sheltered Hunters Quay instead.

        This protectionism is not just practised by Steamer Ports. When the A9 was upgraded and by-passed all the towns en route, the councils managed to get a ban on any service stations being built on the road. It means that a driver who leaves Inverness heading South who suddenly realises that he is low on fuel has to come off the trunk road and hope he finds somewhere to top up. As a country we have a lot of growing up to do.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 25 Thumb down 4

    • Living on the Isle of Cowal isn’t a problem. I use the reliable Western Ferries and I have discovered we are connected to the mainland so I can drive or take the bus. If its not blowing a gale I can take the passenger ferry.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  4. Cnclr Breslin, you must have a short memory. When the Saturn and Jupiter were on the route, they went off almost as frequently as the bathtubs. The joke was that they went off with the wash of another boat.

    What is happening today with Coruisk happened all the time with the Streakers. It is wrong to claim that the route operated by Calmac is better served by vehicle ferries, the fundamental failure in the FAGs arguement.

    As other have suggested many times before on these pages, it’s time the government, Calmac, the FAG group and councillors woke up and started doing something FOR Dunoon rather than this half baked attempt that was doomed before it started.

    The day the SG and Calmac order a bespoke built, robust passenger boat that is built for the Clyde conditions, only then will I believe that they wish the route to succeed.

    As i see it, the current attempt is counter productive and there is more and more justification for scrapping the route altogether and letting Western and McGills get on with it without the fuss. Some migt say that’s always been the plan….

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 2

  5. Footnote – another damp squid for the DGFAG. Hope they weren’t to rowdy on the replacement bus service between Dunoon and Gourock (and back again of course)

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  6. If a regular passenger service was to run from Hunter’s Quay would somebody please tell me just exactly where foot passengers would be able to park their vehicles.I would think most people supporting WF here are not foot passengers on WF but car drivers and could I ask For Argyll why with their attitude to Argyll they use this name.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 15

  7. Park and Ride from Dunoon to Hunter’s Quay? Lots of places have them, and if it would provide a more reliable service for passengers direct to the train station, then why not? If this had been thought out properly, then maybe the large car park would have been better built at Hunter’s Quay in the first place.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

    • To be fair that’s exactly what is happening right now. People are parking their cars in dunoon and then choosing to take the ferry or the bus.

      The facilities are already there. Just wait for the fury when the Council starts charging for parking.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

      • it would be pretty simply to create a car park next to the existing car marshaling area, move the breakwater wall so it goes due east from the link span rather than cutting in as it does at the moment, fill the new area in, tarmac it, and it would create a parking area roughly the size of half a football pitch

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Here is another interesting fact I have just found out about Multi Journey Tickets (10 or 6 journey depending on route),
    Route / Level of discount
    Dunoon – Gourock – 21.33%
    Portavadie – Tarbet – 18.35%
    Cumbrae – Largs – 16.04%
    Mull – Oban – 15.34%
    Rothesay – Weymss Bay – 11.53%
    Brodick – Addrossan – 10.13%

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

    • Perhaps if there was competition on other routes they too could enjoy similar discounts.
      What is even stranger is that Western fares are cheaper than Argyll’s ! And Argyll’s are subsidised.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

      • i agree with that, in that case then should public money be used to directly compete with western ferries fares? ie a bigger discount due to competition

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  9. Never mind, in a few weeks, come 2014 we will all hopefully find out how many companies are interested in providing a robust commercial vehicular town centre to town centre service. The saga continues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

      • @Peter – we will just have to wait and see. The DGFAG and Transport Scotland will have been very busy over the past few months, contacting and discussing the way forward, with the numerous more companies than attended the recent open day. I am sure that they will have a long hard slog collating all the information that has been received. The list could even be in single digits ;-). Watch this space, unless of course the C.C. has another exclusive on this.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  10. Cllr Breslin is correct but only to this extent: it is, indeed, “mince” to say the Coruisk costs an additional £5000 per day. I posted an estimate of the Coruisk’s costs here two months ago based on Cowal Ferries’ streaker costs, extracted from their final year’s published accounts, and came up with a figure of £10,000 per day. I’ll stand by that and, given the way Calmac’s operating costs and subsidies have ramped up well ahead of inflation in the few intervening years, I’ll be surprised if I’ve underestimated. It would be illuminating to know where Cllr Breslin gets his estimate; that is, if he has one.

    I’ll repeat the conclusions I drew from my own estimates:

    That the level of subsidy will amount to an additional subvention of £12 for every one of the 80,000 or so passenger journeys made during the ‘Coruisk’ period, not just for the passengers travelling on the Coruisk. It would be far cheaper to pay to taxi all of them, every one of them, individually, to and from Western Ferries on each side, and not run any Argyll Ferries service at all.

    If the additional £1M is charged against only those using the Coruisk, you’re probably going to be up to about £50 a head, or £100 per person on a return trip. To put that in some sort of context, £100 per day is more than the average UK wage earner gets paid. I’ll just emphasise that point: Cllr Breslin’s commuters now cost more in ferry subsidies than they earn, never mind what they pay in tax.

    Rather than pay the ferry subsidy, it would actually be cheaper for the taxpayer to pay all of these people not to commute at all but to stay permanently at home or, alternatively, to provide them with rent free housing near their place of work, such are the loopy la-la land economics of this saga. If anyone thinks this is a viable, sustainable or affordable way for a community to operate, they’d better think again.

    I’d genuinely be interested to see Cllr Breslin’s rebuttal of all of what I’ve said because, the figures are so crazy, I sometimes wonder whether I’m missing something. In the meantime, I don’t intend to hold my breath.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  11. @H20 – the bus already goes direct from Dunoon via ferry to Gourock station.But as you say, not regular enough. Needs to be at least hourly, with priority loading on ferry. Commuters should contact users group to get them to push for this to be progressed.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  12. There should be a number of very embarrassed members of the Government and the DGFAG, over this very expensive and fruitless deployment (weather dependent) of the Coruisk on the Dunoon to Gourock route.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

    • Yes and not a peep from the other website, we were waiting for Another CC Exclusive “Action Group Party Postponed due to Bad Weather”.
      I actually made a post on the CC website but it was not approved by the editor, perhpas he is chicken or at least a turkey.
      Whatever you think about For Argyll at least the site will publish negitive posts.
      Anyone else had posts not published on the CC website?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

      • @Peter Wade ~ yes, have found the same,especially comments regarding the ferries, unless they are supporting the DGFAG. Saying that, more recent comments that haven’t been supporting the group’s stance have been published from various subscribers. The “life saver ring” logo of the group has not appeared recently either, so maybe the Ed has realised that the group should have had a “plan B” running alongside their “vehicular service or nothing” stance. If you are paying for a news service, you should expect that your views are published, if they are not abusive to anyone. The use of a “large vehicle ferry” has not been the magic solution that many had hoped for, and within the first few days on the route as well. Not gloating, but the failings speak for themselves. Now time for “plan B” ? Unless of course there is a service provider waiting in the wings, who know they can make a service reliable and pay its way.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. The boat can generally make the passage, though she may have to slow down or tack about a bit. The problem is berthing, and the risk of causing unacceptable damage to either the vessel or the quay, and the higher the vessel’s superstructure the more the windage. Calmac’s designers seem to like high superstructures, perhaps because it impresses casual bystanders … ” See the lovely big Calmac ferry ! ” Tends to impress politicians too …
    ” See what I’m giving you ! ” Different matter, of course, when the wind blows hard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

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