The Orcadian reports Serco putting on freight boat as lifeline service

With Serco Northlink Ferries’ MV Hamnavoe at Cammell Lairds in Birkenhead for a two week refit, the Northern Isles  lifeline ferry services operator has yet again been unable to fulfil its contractual obligation to provide a replacement ferry during refits and breakdowns.

Such failures in the event of breakdown are understandable; but refit schedules are known well in advance, so failure in such instances to comply with contractual agreements is a different matter.

It becomes arguable that the Scottish Government must have been well aware that there would be no replacement vessel at any stage of the Serco contract.

In this event, the government has been less than honest with the islanders – and less than, shall we say ‘straightforward’ – in taking the contract from the former operator, the state owned Northlink Ferries which, presumably, tendered at a price that would have have guaranteed the required replacement vessel during any downtime in the normal fleet.

The short Orkney ferry route operator, Pentland Ferries, is taking on the role of lifeline service provider during Hamnavoe’s refit – with an auxiliary bus service carrying Orcadian foot passengers between its terminals to the two Serco terminals at Scrabster and Stromness.

Serco has made a contribution to the ferry service.

It has laid on the freight boat Helliar on its normal route into Stromness.

‘Cargo hold or container, Madame?’

Of course there is some comedy in this but, to be fair, the Helliar will play a part in serving Orkney’s need over this period.

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4 Responses to The Orcadian reports Serco putting on freight boat as lifeline service

  1. Why is it an outrage that money should be spent pandering to the Dunoon Action Group by trying (and failing) to give consistency to the Gourock-Dunoon route by putting on the MV Coruisk, but in the same breath an outrage that the taxpayer isn’t going to fund the vast cost of a replacement for the Hamnavoe for a short period to move fresh air about?
    The Islanders have also known for a long time when dry dock is scheduled to make plans around, and its at a time when presumably the carryings are minuscule.
    Finally, it looks like common sense has prevailed and a low cost, viable and practical short term solution is being used.
    Orkney isn’t cut off. It still has three round trip crossing a day which I’d bet are nowhere near full even with the Hamnavoe out of service.
    Think of it as hundreds of thousands of pounds that can now be spent on Schools, Hospitals, Police and keeping services like social care, public libraries and sports centres available. The stuff that really matters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • You are perfectly right on both counts – and both situations arise from the same conjoined sources: a governmental reluctance to be straightforward and a governmental willingness to throw public money at known pointless causes, for political advantage.
      There is no conceivable defence for the money wasted on the Dunoon charades. The local Action Group could have been constructively helpful to the town if they had concentrated their efforts on the achievable – better passenger boats on the route.
      But rather than lay out the realities for a group that refuses to acknowledge them, the Scottish Government has thrown a great deal of public money into what they know to be a dead end.
      On Orkney, the reality of the capable overall service provided by public sector and private sector operations ought not to be disguised in contractual obligations neither government nor operator take seriously – nor, as you say, do they really need to do so.
      Why put a replacement boat clause in the contract and ignore the improbability of its being observed?
      Orcadians are eminently realistic people.
      The unpleasant issue here is that it is hard not to see credence in the possibility that the Scottish Government – which owned the former Northlink Ferries, used the competitive tendering process on a tender containing this obligation, to shaft their own company and privatise the service.
      This, if correct, was dishonest and gutless.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. Lifeline Service? You can get to Orkney by ferries from Aberdeen, Scrabster and Gills Bay. Whose lives are being saved? Are we really being honest with ourselves about these subsidised lifelines?

    Move West to the island of Lewis & Harris and you see more of the same. Ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway, 2hrs and 45mins @ £8.95 for an adult and £47 for a car or a carvanette. Ferry from Uig to Tarbert, 1hr and 40mins @ £5.90 for an adult and £28.50 for a car or carvanette.

    It’s the same wherever you look. An honest businessman has no chance of competing as long as we keep pumping public money into these lifeline routes that carry so many carvanettes now that they are having to double the vessels on some routes.

    A more honest name would be Cashline routes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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