Humza Yusaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, has announced that the next contract for the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service will bring more resilient vessels to the route.
A Contract Notice has been published today, announcing Transpot Scotland’s intention to run a procurement for the next contract which is due to begin in June 2017. The new contract will run for 12 years.
As part of this procurement, the tender document will specify that the next operator will have to provide vessels of 40 metres in length. This will bring greater resilience to the service, particularly during adverse weather conditions. Additionally, performance deductions will be applied for avoidable service disruption.
Bidders will be asked to tender for a passenger service, whilst being encouraged to provide an unsubsidised vehicle carrying service. The contract will also feature a continued commitment to half-hourly crossings on the route.
Interested parties will be invited to submit formal tenders later this summer, with a view to awarding the contract in Spring 2017.
Mr Yousaf says: ‘The publication of this Contract Notice fires the starting gun on the tender exercise for the next Gourock-Dunoon ferry services contract.
‘Following close consultation with local stakeholders, we have specified that bidders will have to provide vessels of 40 metres in length. This will help address the current issue of reliability on the service, and offer greater resilience during periods of adverse weather.
‘The 40 metre specification may require a potential bidder to make a significant capital investment. Tendering for a 12-year contract will make this a more attractive option, allowing bidders a greater length of time to see a return on that investment.
‘The Scottish Government’s wish is to see a passenger and vehicle service operating between Gourock and Dunoon. That is why we are encouraging bidders to operate a commercial vehicle carrying service, alongside a subsidised passenger service.
‘This tender underlines the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service. It will retain the current timetable of half-hourly crossings and will also seek bidders views on potential improvements to harbour infrastructure at both ends of the route.
‘We want this new contract to provide greater support to the communities that rely on this important transport link. By bringing more resilient vessels to the route and continuing to invest in harbour infrastructure, we hope to make tangible improvements to the service and continue to support the economies in Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde.’
While it may be the Scottish government’s wish to see a vehicle and passenger service on this route, while the 12 year contract period may enable investment in vessels and while the 40 metre length stipulation may also support the provision of an unsubsidised vehicle service, a passenger and vehicle carrier will be heavier, more expensive to construct and more fuel hungry, cutting into profits on the subsidised passenger service.
It will be interesting to see how any ferry operator sees the business case for taking on the successful and highly competitive private sector Western Ferries vehicle service on the route – which is a 20 minute four boat shuttle as opposed to a half hour two boat crossing from bottle neck to bottle neck.