Dunoon ferry meeting revealed more than it knew

Dunoon ferry meeting 2

Thursday night’s (24th November 2011) public meeting on Dunoon’s ferry services between Gourock and Dunoon was some event.

It was good that the meeting was held – because it is important that the people claim the authority to hold to account those, at all levels, who are elected to manage their affairs and those paid to provide their services. There were some serious problems to be addressed; some practical issues emerging that can be – and must be – quickly resolved; and much simmering stuff to be publicly externalised.

It was good that, on a truly awful night – with winds, no moon and viciously lashing rainstorms, the south end of Dunoon was still jam packed with cars and the hall full. We estimate that there were between 400 and 450 people there – each row held 24, there will have been, with the additional rows added at the back as the hall filled, between 16 and 18 rows and there were a couple of handfuls of people at the back who preferred to stand – officials and some others in pole position with anti-SNP placards.

It was good that Dunoon folk were not inhibited by politeness. The boos, the shouts and the heckling may have made the evening an unsettling and not always rational one, but, like the occasional egg, there is a democracy in expressing anger and making that anger felt by those who live in the thinner air at altitude.

To understand how robust a meeting this was, it should be recorded that one participant, on mic, invited Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute’s MSP, to step outside.

And we saw an entirely new concept of the role of a Chair at such a meeting. After three decades of renowned campaigning on Dunoon ferries, Chair Ronnie Smith was in no mood to take hostages.

Less a chair than a marriage of agent provocateur and leader of a lynch mob, Smith attacked his speakers at will and orchestrated one hilarious sequence of audience responses: ‘Who’s been sick on the boat?’ ‘Who’s had children sick on the boat?’ ‘Who’s been frightened?’ ‘Who’s missed a train?’ Who’s missed a hospital appointment?’ Who’s not got to work?’…

It was pretty reminiscent of the – not unrealistic – parody of the behaviour of media hounds on the scene of a disaster, looking for someone fit to speak to the cameras: ‘Any elderly black women who’ve lost a limb and are willing to speak to us?’

The change revealed

Joking – sort of – apart, this set of exchanges and other comments from the floor were revelatory of a previously unrecognised change in Dunoon. The town, Argyll Ferries and the Scottish Government need now to take this as a starting point to move on to get this service right.

Not one of these Q&As – not one – was about car drivers. Not one complaint from the floor was about a grievance from a vehicle owner deprived of town centre access to Gourock or Dunoon.

This picture does fit with David McBrayne CEO, Archie Robertson’s remark that the use of the new passenger service has been stronger than expected.

What we’re all looking at now is a Dunoon with a real need for a good reliable passenger service into the Gourock rail head – and into Dunoon. What is wrong is that the current service is a very long way short of adequate, never mind first class.

This is what must be addressed and the issues are listed further below.

The lost vehicle ferry service

Western Ferries used to be Dunoon’s bogey man, the public sector service’s privateer competitor against whom the great and the good had to defend Dunoon. The legend was that, if the state owned CalMac vehicle and passenger service between Gourock and Dunoon were to cease operation or to go to a passenger-only service, Western Ferries would have a monopoly on a vehicle service, would be free to hike its fares and would promptly screw Dunoon.

Now the dreaded event has come to pass. Dunoon has one shuttle vehicle and passenger service from Western Ferries and one shuttle passenger-only service from Argyll Ferries, a new subsidiary of David McBrayne Ltd’s. This takes foot passengers – who need easy access to the Glasgow train  – right into Gourock rail head, or at any rate within a stout walk to it. Only a madman would think it was a good idea to deliver cars bang into a town centre.

But on Thursday night’s evidence, Dunoon can’t quite get its script right.

Today’s practical problems are serious deficiencies in the new passenger-only service from Argyll Ferries. Today’s emotional problems are centred on the fact that Dunoon didn’t get what Dunoon wanted – but does not need  – a second vehicle service from Dunoon to Gourock – but town centre to town centre.

What Dunoon has not quite grasped is that the old bogey deployed to frighten the natives to the barricades in demanding the retention and upgrading of the centre-to-centre vehicle ferry has vanished into the breezes on the Clyde.  Western Ferries, as the sole provider of a vehicle service to the southern edge of Gourock, has not screwed Dunoon. Instead it has increased the frequency of its service.

But on Thursday night we were still hearing occasional efforts to fly the unable kite of ‘monopoly’ – against a background of no criticism of Western Ferries whatsoever. As Manuel used to say in Fawlty Towers: ‘Que?’

There was not one single complaint about the multi-boat Western Ferries vehicle and passenger shuttle service from Hunter’s Quay on the northern fringe of Dunoon to McInroy’s point on the southern outskirts of Gourock. In fact one ferry user paid whole hearted tribute to this company.

And the new passenger service, when – and when is a major issue – it resolves its very real problems, is committed to providing 60 – yes 60 – crossings a day. How many west coast islands – needing what is, in their case, a fully lifeline service – would find two ferry services both operating at peak frequency, something of a wet dream? Unlike the Cowal peninsula they have no road access to the mainland, nor are they so conveniently placed close to the markets of Scotland’s largest city.

Dunoon is clearly content with the vehicle service it has. It is though, with very good reason, furious about the sort of passenger service it has been given.

What Dunoon now needs to do is to focus its campaign on that issue, relentlessly insisting on improvement after improvement until this service is working as all sides actually want it to do.

The situation has moved on. There is no point in diffusing energies in still trying to get back an additional vehicle and passenger service between the two town centres.

Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute’s MSP, would, on Thursday night’s performance, be a good man to have on your side in a tight spot. He took the boos and jeers that greeted his entrance, hot engined from Edinburgh; took the shouts and the heckling as he spoke; and declined, by default, the invitation to step outside.

Against this background, Russell resolutely made it clear that, while he will represent to the government whatever Dunoon wishes him to represent, while he will set up a meeting between the Transport Minister and  the brand new Dunoon Ferry Users Group – there is simply not going to be a second vehicle and passenger ferry between the two towns. Mr Russell was also open in making it clear that he does not support much of what was done by the government in the lead up to the introduction of this service.

Dunoon and its emergent Ferry Users Group need to recognise the realities and focus their energies  on getting what is gettable and in this Dunoon would clearly have a motivated and sympathetic MSP on its side.

The Scottish Government’s role

This is a substantial part of the bad element of the saga reheated on Friday night – but without any redeeming ‘good’ factors to balance its books.

This is singly the worst and most cack-handed performance by the current Scottish government since it became a minority administration in 2007.

It was two-faced – while the government was saying there would be no monopoly, rookie Transport Minster Stewart Stevenson was actually talking to Western Ferries to see if that company would run a vehicle service between Dunoon and Gourock – the service then operated by state owned CalMac.

It was politically manipulated – with the same Stewart Stevenson constantly delaying and re-announcing new dates for the issue of the tender document for the replacement service between Gourock and Dunoon (the CalMac ships running the route were leaving service because of their age).

Strangely enough, Stevenson finally announced that the tender – whose specification would reveal the government’s intention for the future of the service – would not be issued until after the May 2011 Scottish election. No one was in any doubt as to why that was and we, among many others, had and have nothing but contempt for so obvious and old fashioned a piece of political chicanery.

After this little ticking time bomb, Stevenson – an inept minister at the best of times, fell foul of the snows of this time last year – and was forced, slowly, reluctantly and unfairly from office. He should have been fired – but not for snow, for incompetence.

His replacement, former army officer, Keith Brown whose grasp of the issues and of organisational matters is infinitely beyond Stevenson’s, inherited the explosive device and had to detonate it.

The tender document was indeed for a passenger only service – with the daft caveat that any bidder who wished to tender instead for a vehicle and passenger ferry was welcome to do so – provided they could show that there would be no cross subsidisation of the vehicle side from the passenger subsidy that obtains.This would be against EU law which we have adopted.

Unsurprisingly, no such tender bid was received.

But the political management of the tender date left almost no time for the successful bidder to gear up to run the new service.

The winner, a brand new company, Argyll Ferries, a subsidiary of state owned David McBrayne, had sixteen days to GO. How professional an exercise of management of a major service is that? Take the first person off the street, give them a fifteen minute introduction to the issue – and they would find sixteen days risible.

With the profound collateral damage done to the Scottish Government’s credibility in the mishandling of this matter, we ask why Stewart Stevenson has actually been returned to ministerial office and let loose on Environment and Climate Change? As England Rugby Manager, Martin Johnson, has cone to realise, loyalty is fine but not when it enters the realm of laissez faire.

Argyll Ferries was shackled from the off. This was not a case of hitting the ground running. This was staggering for the start line with no wind to fill the sails, having to take a long tack, gathering bits of kit as it went, throwing them all into the operation and twisting the fingers of both hands as the gun fired.

Of course it was a bad start – a very bad start. It was also a toxic inheritance not of his own making for Michael Russell, elected as Argyll and Bute’s MSP in 2011 with a heavyweight majority.

Argyll Ferries on the rack – and a touch of dishonesty from the crowd

The state owned maritime assets company, CMAL, had no suitable boats for this route in its fleet. So it used reserves to buy two boats and Argyll Ferries was set up within the McBrayne group to operate them independently of CalMac. We remain unclear as to whose reserves bought the boats and which company actually now owns them.

Argyll Ferries was given two unable boats – both of which have just been out of service undergoing major refits. One has had both engines replaced and the other its two props – which, after a few months in service for both boats,  does raise the question of how on earth they were deemed fit to put on the water in the first place. But it is said that they were all that was available. Certainly boats of that capability don’t sit on shelves waiting for passing trade and the operation had so appallingly little time to get going.

There is no doubt that Argyll Ferries – as the Irish joke goes when someone asks for directions – wouldn’t have chosen to start from there.

There have been service cancellations more often than not – and on Friday night the best that poor Archie Robertson, CEO of parent company, David McBrayne Ltd, could do was say lamely that at least Argyll Ferries has never fallen below the level of service provided by CalMac. This was one crossing per hour and Robertson’s attempt to claw something back on this tack only brought howls of bitter laughter.

The company also inherited a service infrastructure wholly unsuitable to the nature of the boats.

The previous service had been a side-and-stern roro, with linkspan access to the vehicle deck and gangway access to the passenger deck from the quayside.

The two boats new to the route – the Ali Cat and the Argyll Flyer – are both passenger only and designed to berth at pontoons.

In operation at both Gourock and Dunoon, these boats have to turn and reverse in to the linkspans, crossing their own wakes in the process, creating uncomfortable experiences for passengers who must then embark and disembark via the stern – and up or down the linkspan ramp. Being disabled is barely viable.

Dishonesty from the floor

At this point there was inherent dishonesty at the meeting. This very real problem – as described above – is to be addressed at Gourock but not at Dunoon. The inequality of that went utterly unquestioned on Thursday night –  because it is the consequence of a problem caused by Argyll and Bute Council and not by the Scottish Government, CalMac or Argyll Ferries, all of whom Dunoon prefers to hammer.

Admitting the problems caused by the mismatch of boats to service infrastructure at both ends of the route, the reasonable Archie Robertson of David McBrayne Ltd, informed the meeting that the company plans to create a pontoon berth for the two boats at Gourock, close to the ticket desk end of the long train platform that runs parallel to the harbourside. This will make for straightforward passenger access at Gourock – but not in Dunoon. One would have expected questions if not howls – but there was no response to this at all from any member of the crowd.

The reason for this is a local desire not to expose an expensive and arrogant misjudgment on the part of Argyll and Bute Council in Dunoon. The town is the fiefdom of Council Leader, Dick Walsh and Dunoon has been taught to understand which side of its bread to look after.

The former Calmac vehicle service between Gourock and Dunoon used a side loading ramp at the beautiful old pier, recently and protectively raised to a Grade A listing by Historic Scotland.

A few years ago, the council, which had neglected maintenance of the pier to the point where it now requires serious reconstruction, planned to demolish it. Certain that the Scottish Government of whatever political persuasion would naturally continue to operate a vehicle and passenger service between Gourock and Dunoon town centres, using a linkspan, the council went ahead on a speculative spend and built a new linkspan at a breakwater erected south of the old pier.

That linkspan has sat unused since 2005 and is now at last in service, used clumsily and inappropriately by passenger boats that were built for pontoon access.

Not a word of criticism came from the meeting for this act of folie de grandeur by the council, which leaves a passenger ferry service condemned to use a wholly inappropriate berthing and passenger access facility – and with no word of any plan from the council, whose responsibility it is, to build pontoon access at that end of the route.

In our eyes, Dunoon ferry users lost serious credibility in the almost studied avoidance of this important issue.

The real issues – on the evidence

The boats bought hurriedly for the route are not up to the job in the weather spectrum the broad Clyde experiences. Nothing anyone can say can counter the evidence on this that the travellers to and from Dunoon have at first hand. If the customers don’t like or trust the boats – with reason – it is pointless and patronising simply to tell them they’re wrong or that others know better. The customer is always right. Change the boats at the earliest opportunity – or change one of them.

The Argyll Flyer – may, possibly, become capable of providing an efficient and acceptable service on the route if, after its recent major refit, its berthing arrangements are radically revised. One member of the audience on Thursday night described the Flyer as ‘tolerable’ and suggested that it become the principal boat on the run. What he said was, unusually for this meeting, not greeted with noisy disagreement. There is the basis for some resolution here.

The second boat, the Ali Cat, should be accepted as collateral damage of the Scottish government’s disastrously incompetent and politically expedient management of the tender process for the passenger ferry service. It is famously weather-nervous, with its high windage and shallow twin hulls skiting about on the wave tops. Dunoon will never accept the Ali Cat as a suitable boat on the run and they are unlikely ever to have reason to change their minds.

It should be sold on at the earliest opportunity and as soon as a stable alternative can be found. If this is entered into with honour, determination and dispatch by Argyll Ferries / CMAL / David MacBrayne Ltd / the Scottish government, we have no doubt that Dunoon will be reasonable – if watchful – on the timeline.

The sideshows

The May elections are clearly a major issue for members of Argyll and Bute’s Alliance of Independent Councillors.

They were there in relative force. They were in campaign mode, with Council Leader Dick Walsh shouty and devoid of reason, like a wild west stump orator in days long gone. Why do voters never seem to realise that politicians of any level who have no power to act on an issue are always the ones who demand for you everything you want. Wise up.

The touting brigade of councillors were, however, caught out on various deceptive moves.

Michael Russell picked up Councillor Duncan MacIntyre – he does crop up rather often on misleading manoeuvres like this – for being ‘disingenuous’ in claiming to have had no connection with the new ferry arrangements that so enrage Dunoon. Russell reminded MacIntyre that, to his personal knowledge, Macintyre, as Chair of Hi-Trans, had been present at key meetings and had been party to the direction of travel they had taken.

Then there was Councillor Bruce Marshall. It has to be said that Marshall, not known as the sharpest tool, does not seem to be Dunoon’s favourite Councillor. Every time he spoke or stood up to speak, there were audible and widespread groans around this  most expressive audience.

At one point a member of the audience said that he wanted to put on the record his disapointment that the Dunoon ferry issue was being supported by an Inverclyde councillor, with no input from Cowal Councillors. (The Inverclyde councillor to whom he referred was George White, from Tarbert, who stood as Liberal candidate for Argyll and Bute in the 2011 Scottish Election.)

At this point, up popped (groans) Councillor Marshall. He wanted the meeting to know that he had been to all of the Dunoon Ferry Users Group meetings for the past four years. Puzzlement all round – because the Dunoon Ferry Users Group was only being inaugurated at this very meeting.

Eventually someone sorted things out for the hapless Marshall. What he was talking about was the Clyde Ferry Users group – which includes the Bute ferries, the Arran ferries and the Cumbrae ferries as well as the Dunoon ferries. This was less of a ‘What planet are you on?’ matter than a ‘What meeting have you just been to?’ matter. No wonder Argyll and Bute Council is directionless. Councillor Marshall is Spokesperson for the Environment. (Hang on. Stewart Stevenson – Environment. Bruce Marshall – Environment. Is here a hidden message here?)

One woman complained about a substantial storm that had grounded all the ferries, leaving her and her husband stranded for the night on the Gourock side and having to pay for a hotel. Now this was a “What planet are you on?’ question. Such complaints would better be addressed to a much higher authority than poor Archie Robertson of David McBrayne Ltd. But by now CalMac et all are pretty punch drunk in being liable to be held accountable for everything.

The ‘To do’ list

In order of priority:

  • Build pontoon berths at both Gourock and Dunoon. Councillor Walsh should stop shouting about the Scottish Government and do what he can do – give Dunoon pontoon berthing for this service. This would be a fitting revision of the use of Dunoon’s still undeployed CHORD project funding, underpinning the future of the town as opposed to trying to buttress Councillor Walsh’s own position for next May.
  • Replace the Ali Cat at the earliest opportunity. Involve the Dunoon Ferry Users Group in the process of selection of the alternative
  • See if the Argyll Flyer can cope acceptably with the weather and, if not, replace it too, again involving the Dunoon Ferry Users Group.
  • Get shoreside reception facilities fit for human beings at both ends of the route.
  • Find out what Gourock thinks and wants. Find out what the primary usage is from each end of the route. If the major usage is from Dunoon, then site the Argyll Ferries HQ at Dunoon, ‘owned’ by that town.
  • The Scottish Government, the end owner of all of the companies involved, should prepare to use its ‘Cure Notice’ sanction should Argyll Ferries’ reliability and punctuality not improve as the service matures.
  • Route buses through the car park at Dunoon with drop offs and pick ups close to the berth.
  • Move the Gourock berth close to the Ticket Office end of the rail platform at Gourock
  • Get the information service up to speed – many complained that it is never up to the minute with the reality on the water.

The reality is, of course, that the least central elements – the last three – will be the ones most energetically actioned. It is up to the new Dunoon Ferry Users Grop to keep up the pressure on the rest.

What about the ugly?

We’ve had the good and the bad. What about the ugly?

This was the Queen’s Hall in Dunoon where the meeting was held. Look at the photograph at the top of this article.

You have to worry about a community that can obsess about the minutiae of who said what on the ferries issue 30 years ago while sitting in the town’s major public space which – today – is in a bizarre and quite ridiculous state.

This large hall is tented with suburban semi-opaque nylon-style curtaining, hanging so low that it makes a significant space claustrophobic and very ill lit.

There are some neon lights visible in the ceiling above the netting but the light is absorbed and diffused by the fabric to make the hall hopelessly gloomy.

If there is a ventilation system, it is inadequate. The air quality on Friday night became progressively enervating. And if there is any means of lighting a platform party, it either doesn’t work or no one had the wit to use it. All you could see on the stage was a row of male blurs and you could just about tell when one stood up. Identification? You had to take that from the introduction of each by the Chair. Facial expression? Forget it.

The two imperatives of any public occasion are that everyone has to be able to see clearly and to hear well.

There was a good microphone system on Thursday night, although with a full hall, the hand held mics were inevitably slow to arrive. Many in the audience started without them and most forgot to hold the mics to their mouths – to be met with exasperated shouted instructions from around the hall. Unfair. How many folk have any experience of using a mic?

And a great note

Many who spoke – and on this to unanimous acclaim – repeated how magnificent the Argyll Ferries crews are. From our own experience, we’d echo every syllable of that.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Very good news that a pontoon berth is to be installed at Gourock to give direct access between boats and trains, and very bad news if the berthing arrangements at Dunoon are to remain at the whim of the council, going by their track record in the management of marine termini. I wonder how long before our council administration realise that – as long as they retain control over this – it will remain a poison chalice? I also wonder whether the meeting was minuted, and whether we will be able to review exactly what was said by our various elected representatives – or whether we will be granted a press release of the ‘Jura Ferry’ variety?

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    Robert Wakeham November 26, 2011 9:01 pm Reply
    • For Robert Wakeham: We have exhaustive notes of the meeting – handwriten and just about intelligible (with foreknowledge) but we reckon we have at least a 90% record of what was said.

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      newsroom November 26, 2011 9:29 pm Reply
    • Mr Wakeham, two full reports which quote verbatim what was said by the elected representatives at this meeting are available to read for free on the CowalCourier.com website.

      David Goodwin
      Editor
      CowalCourier.com

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      David Goodwin November 29, 2011 11:06 am Reply
      • Had the commenter not been David, our mouses would not have even twitched toward the spam button, but because it is, and because David is publicising his site, albeit, one might argue, in a publicly spirited kind of way, there was a moment’s hesitation there. We thought you should know about that hesitation before we reluctantly approved the comment.

        We see this as an opportunity to play fair, and let David know that this sort of self-publicising, traffic-trawling comment is something we would discourage from him (and anyone else for that matter), both in terms of our site (we’ll simply delete comments like this in the future) but also in terms of any other site that he might care to make similar comment upon (being classified as Spam by them will do great damage to his website’s search engine rankings as that ‘Spam’ tag will be applied not only to his IP address, but his email address and his domain).

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        Techroom November 29, 2011 10:55 pm Reply
  • In my opinion , the best way for people in Dunoon and Cowal to advance their cause would be to vote out of office every SNP councillor in the area . Only then will the likes of Michael Russell really take the situation seriously .

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    kintyre1 November 26, 2011 9:03 pm Reply
    • Quelle surprise Kintyre1!

      You really are verging on the ridiculous.

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      Crazy She-Bat November 26, 2011 9:07 pm Reply
    • Pot and kettle, kintyre1 – by dumbing down the issue into a matter of nothing more than party politics it’s you that’s not taking the situation seriously.

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      Robert Wakeham November 26, 2011 9:16 pm Reply
  • Thanks for this info.

    Find it hard to disagree with any points. The new service timetable is laudable, the choice of boats laughable, verging on dangerous.

    Until recently, I’d always thought horrific “Passenger Boat Capsize” headline stories always happened in far off countries. But even the Argyll Flyer has scared me silly.

    And the incompetent berthing arrangement make perfect sense now we appreciate it’s A&BC’s responsibity.

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    Grant MacDonald November 26, 2011 10:15 pm Reply
    • I would trust the “Argyll Flyer” before the “Ali Cat”. I crossed on that one rough day and swore “never again”. It is totally unsuited for the Clyde. “Argyll Flyer” is at least built along the lines of a real ship and has some natural balance.

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      Andy November 26, 2011 10:38 pm Reply
    • I too think there is a real danger with the new ferries. All the ferries on Clyde rely on their Captains to keep them safe. The difference with the little passenger boats is that they reach their limits in much lighter seas (that is why the can never be reliable) and so the margin for error is much less.

      There will be pressure on the Captains to try to run to timetable, there can be no doubt about that. If there is a tragedy, and it could happen, then it will be the Captain’s judgement in putting to sea that will be blamed. The real fault though will have been with the officials and politicians who provided inadequate ferries for the job.

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      ferryman November 27, 2011 2:06 pm Reply
  • I heard that the participant you mentioned who asked Mike Russell to step outside is a Cowal councillor. The one who is even less sharp than Mr. Marshall. But as I was not at the meeting, and no longer live in the area, I could not verify this. But you could!

    As an aside, I noticed in today’s Herald that Alan Reid did a kintyre1 and accused the SNP of threatening tourism in the Western Isles by not publishing the CalMac fares for next summer. The man gets more ridiculous by the day.

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    Andy November 26, 2011 10:28 pm Reply
  • The pier will only survive thanks to the breakwater. The current appalling ferry service would be even worse without the breakwater. Adding the linkspan to it was a minor cost.

    The newsroom article suggest that both the existing ferries might be replaced – with what exactly? Car ferry sized passenger boats? Whoever wrote the article may use the ferries on an occasional basis but is obviously not a regular user and has clearly not given the problem a lot of thought.

    To run economically and cope with the weather you need car ferries on an unrestricted timetable.

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    ferryman November 26, 2011 11:04 pm Reply
    • For ferryman: Can you then explain why, if such an unrestricted vehicle ferry service is such a sure fire profitable enterprise, not one sharp entrepreneur came forward to offer such a service in the tender? It was perfectly open to such a bid.
      You also have to accept the reality that Western Ferries is running a vehicle and passenger service that seems to be serving the needs of the Gourock – Dunoon market without complaint.
      Where then would the additional substantial vehicle market come from to sustain two successful private sector operations on the same route?
      And of course we have put considerable thought into this matter. It is not a sudden situation, and like everyone interested in it, we have had plenty of time to think about it.

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      newsroom November 26, 2011 11:14 pm Reply
    • Ferryman: I’m no expert but I do know that Souter Holdings owns the Auckland harbour passenger ferry system that goes by the name of Fullers, doesn’t carry vehicles, and surely turns a profit if it’s in Sir Brian’s stable. At least some of the boats are equipped with adjustable stern gangways – presumably to avoid the need for pontoon landing stages – and I wonder if anyone reading this has first-hand knowledge of whether these boats operate in conditions similar to those between Dunoon and Gourock?

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      Robert Wakeham November 27, 2011 12:59 am Reply
  • You need to have boats – at the very least two. None were available on the second hand market and it takes years to build them.

    There were of course already car ferries running on the route. Perhaps in the cause of investigate journalism you should be asking why the tender mandated the use of the new linkspan. That meant the boats already on the route could not be used, now why would anybody do that?

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    ferryman November 26, 2011 11:25 pm Reply
  • For ferryman:
    The boats already on the route were elderly and we understand are scheduled for what they now call ‘recycling’.
    They were also vehicle ferries where the tender was primarily for a passenger service.
    This does sit oddly with a mandatory requirement to use the linkspans.
    While there may well have been more chicanery of some kind in this, it is not impossible that the woodentops at Holyrood imagined that Western Ferries might let them off the hook with Dunoon by putting in a low cost bid for a vehicle and passenger service between the two town centres – and, as such idiots do, may have fondly imagined that making the use of the linkspan mandatory would have been an enticement for Western to lose its business wits.

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    newsroom November 26, 2011 11:43 pm Reply
    • Jupiter left the Clyde, under tow by tug “Luna A”, very shortly after terminating service — end of June 2011 — for scrapping in Denmark.
      Juno was scrapped (I have read) in 2007.
      Saturn was indicated on AIS within the last week, near Roseneath, but can’t reasonably be expected to have a long future.

      I still would like to know why the contract REQUIRED the use of the linkspans (especially at Dunoon). Why did Holyrood introduce that particular requirement?

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      Hugh McFarlane November 27, 2011 3:44 pm Reply
      • For Hugh McFarlane: Many thanks. With the mythical character names of these boats, we are guilty of perpetually muddling them up.
        Saturn will have its due place shortly.

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        newsroom November 27, 2011 3:51 pm Reply
  • You have not answered my question about what you would replace the current boats with. Personally I would use the two vehicle ferries the Government has just given CalMac £20M to have built.

    But sticking with your question about the profitability of a vehicle service on the route. I think it could/can be very profitable. Any doubt could have easily been resolved by removing the time table restrictions while the old streaker service was still running. Now why do think that did not happen?

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    ferryman November 26, 2011 11:54 pm Reply
    • or ferryman: So why did no business tender to supply a vehicle service? This can only be because its potential profitablity is doubted seriously by the investment market.

      Re the two new experimental’green’boats CMAL is building at Ferguson’s, someone at the meeting asked this same question of Archie Ferguson, CEO of David McBrayne Ltd.

      Mr Ferguson said that these are small boats (we understand they are designed for the short Raasay/Skye route, an underpopularted area). He described them as muchg the same as the boat form Colintraive to Rhobodach on Bute. This size would clearly be neither a functional nor an economic proposition on the Dunoon Gourock route.

      For reasons of space, we were unable virtually to minute the meeting in the article, but this is information you may like to have.

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      newsroom November 27, 2011 4:00 pm Reply
      • Really you need three ferries otherwise you end up with the present situation where you only have a half service for about a month each year.

        At a cost of £10M each you would need £30M. The contract is only for 6 years so even without operating costs you would need to make £5M/year.

        The problem is not whether or not the route is profitable it is that the tender on offer was not attractive. A 20 or 25 year contract would have been a whole different ball game. Even so people would need time to get boats.

        The Ferguson ferries are “designed for use on many of the short crossing routes around the Clyde and Hebrides”. They are “designed to accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars or 2 HGVs”. The basic design is very similar to the boats used by Western Ferries. At face value they sound like a pretty good fit to what Dunoon needs, and additional orders would help secure jobs at Fergusons. The important point is that while we were being told money could not possible be found for Dunoon CalMac were being given money to buy ferries.

        You are still avoiding saying what you would replace the current boats with to provide the first rate passenger service you seem to think there will be.

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        ferryman November 27, 2011 7:32 pm Reply
  • Here is a theoretical question; Lets say you want to make money and you run the only ferry service on a route. What are you going to do;

    a) Put on lots of ferries (pay the crew fuel etc.) so that none of your customers have to wait for a ferry even if that means the ferry is sometimes not full.

    b) Let people queue so that your ferry is always full and so gain the most profit from each trip.

    c) Put up your prices so that your ferry is full and there are no queues and you make even more money.

    What would you do?

    At the moment there are queues. Sometimes the former foot passengers who have opted to try going by bus find the bus does not get on!

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    ferryman November 27, 2011 12:07 am Reply
  • Last post, my mum says I have to go to bed.

    The tender mandated the use of the linkspan you were critical about. It also permitted a vehicle service. How could that be possible given we were repeatedly told a vehicle service was completely impossible under EU rules?

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    ferryman November 27, 2011 12:22 am Reply
  • The reality is that even Cal-Mac and Western Ferries did not submit a bid for a vehicle and passenger service. Even the boss of David MacBrayne told the public meeting that he could not tender for a vehicle and passenger service – he never said why not. The service is being used more than was expected, but there are concerns that it is not making a profit for Argyll Ferries. Does newsroom know if the service has to make a profit to continue, or will the service have to be pulled if a profit does not become a reality soon? As a member of the public stated we have to work with what we have, make it successfull, or we could lose it completly. The meeting never really gave any hope of any service apart from the passenger one continuing and improving.

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 1:06 am Reply
    • DunoonLad: perhaps it shouldn’t be taken as gospel that the service has to make a profit; there are huge swathes of public transport, of just about all modes – around the world – that are viewed as socio-economic neccessities and deserving of public financial support.

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      Robert Wakeham November 27, 2011 1:21 am Reply
  • for andy, it was a dunoon ward councillor, not to be confused with a cowal ward councillor, and definately one that is not the brightest bulb in the lightfitting.

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    Dunoon Mum November 27, 2011 1:35 am Reply
    • If the ward councillor was who I think it would be then I agree that he is not the brightest but, he has now had himself noticed,(with an election not too far away)supposedly supporting all the people that he represents. No different from any other councillor seeking votes I guess. Should there not be a retirement age for our councillors ?

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      george November 27, 2011 1:59 pm Reply
      • An IQ test might be more appropriate. I wonder how many would pass though.

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        Andy November 27, 2011 5:56 pm Reply
    • Lucky for Mike Russell he declined the ‘square go’ as the councillor has (allegedly) a tough old cookie with pleny experience!

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      phill November 27, 2011 5:40 pm Reply
  • DunoonLad: As the current service is subsidised throughout its six-year period, no profit is anticipated over the full term of the contract.

    Robert Wakeham: Mention of Souter’s NZ subsidiary Fuller’s is interesting – you may recall that Souter was one of the four companies initially invited to bid for the Dunoon route, although he later withdrew (allegedly to pursue other interests elsewhere).

    Newsroom: Both boats are owned by David MacBrayne Ltd, having been purchased by them using profits made by their activities in recent years. They are chartered to Argyll Ferries Ltd. Ownership information can be be confirmed by looking at the Transportscotland website – it’s really not too hard to research these things!

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    Jim Williamson November 27, 2011 4:24 am Reply
    • Souter being a canny man and the ferry contract being a can of worms, it’s surely no surprise he withdrew from bidding and surely this isn’t neccessarily an indication that the route can’t be made to work, given unified control over both termini as well as the ferries – and a realistic attitude to the cost/benefit sums and the appropriate type of boat. Can you imagine Western Ferries being where they are now if they didn’t control their termini?

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      Robert Wakeham November 27, 2011 11:19 am Reply
    • For Jim Williamson: Many thanks for this information. We were unclear from the information at the meeting on Thursday night whose reserves were used and who owns the boats. Because we were under pressure of demand to publish on the meeting as soon as we reasonably could, we considered this a side issue in terms of the principal focus and hoped that if we said this situation was unclear, someone with the information might provide it.

      We – and all our readers interested in this matter – are grateful to you for taking the trouble to provide this.

      Does this situation mean that there is now a rather messy corporate structure, with both CMAL and the parent company, David McBrayne Ltd, owning boats?

      We can see how this would come about – if it was the McBrayne reserved that were used to buy the boats we assume that they could not then simply become an asset of CMAL’s?

      But all of this does reinforce the sense of successive ad hockery, rather than cool strategic thinking and planning.

      And, with all of the McBrayne group of companies state owned, the separation of assets and asset managers from end owner can not, with credibility, go more than a certain distance.

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      newsroom November 27, 2011 12:47 pm Reply
  • Newsroom….I so disagree with you when you say that Dunoon has the ferry service that it needs. I think that if you lived in Dunoon you would realise that not everything is as rosey as you paint it. Dunoon does need another operator for the Dunoon – Gourock vehicle ferry route. Calmac was, more or less, hounded off the route by Western. Because of their unrestricted timetable Western had the largest slice of cake, but they wanted ALL of the cake and the SNP has given that to them. Western are and were only interested in the vehicle traffic. You say that Argyll Ferries gives ” easy access to the Glasgow train ” and ” a stout walk “. Both my wife and I are in our 70’s and have difficulty even walking, therefore stout walks are out of the question, and I would not relish pushing a pram or carry a suitcase. Western were never interested in docking at Dunoon because harbour dues would be charged by ABC, something that Calmac has paid for years. As for your “I wonder who was the madman that thought of running a car ferry from town centre to town centre “? That’s just silly talk.

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    george November 27, 2011 8:15 am Reply
  • ” There was not one single complaint about Western “……..
    Why would there be ? Surely the meeting was to discuss the inadequate passenger service and not the loss of the vehicle service.

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    george November 27, 2011 9:55 am Reply
    • For george:
      Who knows? There was certainly plenty of talk from the chair and from the floor around the loss of the former vehicle vehicle and passenger service (and no one was ever directed away from this matter) – yet such discussion never once raised a complaint about the Western Ferries position.

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      newsroom November 27, 2011 10:03 am Reply
      • Newsroom – You dont seem to understand, the people of Dunoon and Cowal dont have a problem with WF. We want the vehicle and passenger service restored,town centre to town centre as promised by the SNP. Simple!!

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        Gus MacKay November 29, 2011 11:28 pm Reply
  • Given that this service is subsidised at a fixed rate for the term of the contract, Argyll Ferries still expect to make a profit, and they have apparently purchased the bath boats from previous profits elsewhere, why are the government paying them £ millions subsidy, when they are obviously making some routes pay their way? Surely the subsidies should be reducing, not increasing if this is the case.

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 11:37 am Reply
    • DunoonLad the “profit” CalMac expect to make is included in the subsidy. Overall a passenger only service on this route is always going to burden on the taxpayer – that is why the backtracking on providing a vehicle service is so strange.

      One person said the service appeared designed to fail, that does seem to be the case. Mike Russell has also trotted out the phrase “use it or lose it” several times. I appears to me he is just laying the ground so that at the end of six years when the system fails he can blame the users.

      You have to realise that in introducing a passenger only service they must have expected the passenger numbers to fall compared with the old service (because some passengers travel in cars). In fact numbers seem to be higher than they were expecting. Of course with boats too small to run in the winter that will change over the course of 6 years.

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      ferryman November 27, 2011 2:46 pm Reply
  • I am appalled by this misleading and inaccurate article from one who takes pride in forensic analysis and evidence based information to guide policy.

    It has been shown time and time again, with a huge amount of forensic evidence from Deloitte Touch onwards and includes the views of both Western Ferries and Calmac, that A PASSENGER ONLY SERVICE WOULD FAIL. So why does For Argyll continue to talk nonsense?

    It has also been shown with bucketfuls of forensic evidence that it COSTS MORE IN SUBSIDY TO RUN A PASSENGER ONLY SERVICE, it is more efficient and would have bigger better boats that are reliable, more suitable, more cost effective etc etc if it were vehicle and passenger.

    For Argyll must be willfully misrepresenting this in the face of so much evidence which has been patiently explained in these columns time and time again. Please go back and read Neil Kays website if you need a refresher. And it is patently not only his analysis but that of others.

    It is not hard to understand. It is perfectly feasible to have two vehicle and passenger services as anyone who has used them regularly over the years and seen the steady increase in traffic can testify. No one has a problem with Western running, although it is a very expensive service and some competition that would bring prices down would be very welcome. It does need an ability to dissect research evidence to understand this I admit but it is not rocket science and it is not only the supposed usual suspects that are saying this.

    Get real – as one person said at the meeting, this is killing our community and local economy, people are leaving, people are not traveling here, people are late for work and missing appointments, college etc and in danger fo loosing their jobs and college places, people feel sick and are frightened.

    IT WILL NOT BE FIXED BY throwing money at THE POOR SERVICE WE HAVE, WE NEED A RETURN TO THE VEHICLE AND PASSENGER SERVICE.

    And the Councilor did not ask Mike Russell to step outside. I was in the front row. He asked Mike Russell to not just talk a fight but to go to the Scottish Gov and actually fight for what the community want. He wants Mike to fight the Scottish Government, not him.

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    Lorna Ahlquist November 27, 2011 12:37 pm Reply
    • For Lorna Alquist: The constant repetition of these old saws – discredited by events on the ground – is pretty wearisome.

      The commercial fact you have to account for in pleas like this is that the tender was open to any entrepreneur to enter a bid for the contract that included a vehicle service on the same boat as the passenger service to be tendered. The passenger side of the service would be subsidised for whoever won the contract so there was no obstruction to anyone seeing a profit making opportunity in a combined vehicle and passenger service.

      No one – no one – entered such a bid.

      No one believed in the proposition you put forward to the point where they were prepared to take the commercial risk. That means that the proposition was, to put it generously. commercially implausiblle. And that is an irrefutable market judgment.

      We have been disappointed in the soundness of some of the arguments Neil Kay enthusiastically advances. For this reason we chose simply not to refer to them. When we were repeatedly and aggressively challenged on this by Neil Kay, we were put in a position where we had to demonstrate openly the specific nature of our concerns on the validity of some of his positions – which we did.

      For this reason we do not rely on his arguments ourselves and we cannot recommend others to do so without the same careful interrogation we apply.

      And on the member of the audience’s challenge to Mr Russell, we noted it as it was spoken and it was as we have said.

      Listeners have no access to what is ‘meant’ only to what is said – which is what we reported. It is only spinners who put a gloss on what was said by trying to infer what was meant. And we know no more than that it was a member of the audience. We do not know and have not said that it was a councillor – which, if it was, takes Argyll politics to an even stranger place.

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      newsroom November 27, 2011 1:06 pm Reply
      • Western obviously would not bid, why would they want to run in competition with themselves.

        My recollection of the meeting was that CalMac CEO Archie Robertson said he could not bid a vehicle ferry solution because he had no suitable boats. Maybe if the tender had allowed the the use of the old pier he would have bid. The tender seemed designed specifically to exclude the only way a vehicle service could have been provided in the timescales.

        Personally I would have been delighted if a vehicle service had continued, unrestricted, from the old pier even if it was using the streakers.

        As a car driver the town centre to town centre route would have been my favourite one had the playing field been level.

        I have absolutely no complaint with Western I want to see them running and returning a profit. However I also want a competing vehicle service.

        The present arrangement is a reduction in service for foot passengers, bus users AND vehicle users. Over time this will impact the local economy very badly.

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        ferryman November 27, 2011 2:34 pm Reply
  • Not only a retirement age but perhaps also a competence test?

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    Dunoon Mum November 27, 2011 2:17 pm Reply
  • To clarify matters it was Cllr. McQueen who spoke to Mike Russell at the foot of the stage.

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 2:41 pm Reply
  • For Argyll, I do not spin, anyone who knows me knows I have intregrity. Anyway, that is not what is most important and I am happy to leave it. I am just rather concerned that that is what is getting press and it is unhelpful to those who had the exchange for it to be a focus of attention.

    There are several reasons why there were no tenders for a vehicle service – again I refer to http://www.brochur.com. They are easily understandable. No suitable boats existed, no sane commercial operator will put out that financial outlay for a contract of 6 years etc etc. So I am afraid your evidence does not stack up. You repeat as much as anyone else and on shakier ground. What you are saying is very damaging and divisive to the work we hope the Ferry Users Group will be able to do. That is a very great responsibility, I urge you to be more thoughtful .

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    Lorna Ahlquist November 27, 2011 2:42 pm Reply
  • A couple more events that will cause some tourist issues – Cowal Games, with no streakers available surely this will put non car visitors off from attending, and the same will surely apply when the National Mod returns to Dunoon.

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 3:01 pm Reply
    • For DunoonLad: Why would they need cars if there were to be a capable first class passenger service?
      This would open up opportunities for taxi services and special Games-only minibus or West Coast Motors shuttling.
      Presumably the MOD would be in the Queens Hall, which could hardly be closer to the passenger ferry ‘terminal’?

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      newsroom November 27, 2011 3:20 pm Reply
      • Newsroom: You have agreed the current boats are not up to the job. You have still not answered the question of how you expect a “first class passenger service” can be delivered.

        As a daily ferry user I can give you the answer; the only way you will get a reliable passenger service is by using vehicle ferries. Or are you seriously going to suggest larger passenger only ferries?

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        ferryman November 27, 2011 4:00 pm Reply
        • Why not? a genuine commitment to growing the passenger numbers – which would need close integration of transport modes as well as really decent boats, fit for purpose. It’s called co-ordinated public transport, and when done properly can work wonders.

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          Robert Wakeham November 27, 2011 5:40 pm Reply
          • Show me some arithmetic.

            What would be the passenger capacity of a passenger only boat able to perform as reliably as the old streakers or the current Western ferry vessels?

            What is the population of Dunoon?

            How are you going to grow the passenger numbers to the extent that would be required to make the boats profitable?

            The Government does not expect even the current sized boats to run at a profit. In fact they are expecting it to be very uneconomic hence the “use it or lose it”.

            I do very much agree with you that it should be possible to grow numbers but it will only work with both vehicles and passengers.

            The high cost of ferries has strangled the Dunoon economy. Competition is needed.

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            ferryman November 27, 2011 6:18 pm
  • Why do people continually regurgitate the obsolete Deloitte and Touche report? It was so flawed, and out of date, when it was released that it was immediately followed by an Addendum, which drew significantly different conclusions.

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    Jim Williamson November 27, 2011 3:38 pm Reply
    • It is better to test things than to theorise. So why were the timetable restrictions not lifted while the streakers were still running? That would have removed any doubt about the viability of a vehicle service on the CalMac route.

      I for one would have favoured the CalMac route.

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      ferryman November 27, 2011 4:07 pm Reply
  • To ferryman – not sure why you would say that your preferred car ferry route would be the town centre one? There would be obvious points to consider given that both routes take the same journey time e.g. Price, timetable, and ongoing destination from Inverclyde. That is unless anyone is totally against a service that is not a CalMac one.

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 5:27 pm Reply
    • I was assuming a level playing field for price and timetable.

      My journey is Dunoon Glasgow (I suspect most people head in the Glasgow direction). It is therefore a pain to have to drive the additional miles at both ends to get to and from Western. Might not seem like much but you do it twice a day and you will soon realise it makes a big difference. Those extra miles can also mean you miss a ferry and have to wait, again no fun.

      There is nothing wrong with Western, but the CalMac route was certainly better.

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      ferryman November 27, 2011 5:43 pm Reply
  • The main point that is missing here is that for the last few decades car drivers deserted the Cal-Mac route in their droves! If this had not happened, The current outcome may never had come to be. And the old frequency excuse just won’t wash! If any traveller is going for a ferry, train, bus, or plane they make sure that they are there in time. Given that Cal-Mac must have been carrying an average of 8 or so vehicles a trip, thare was generally always room for vehicles. The marketing ploy that helped Western Ferries become so popular was that vehicles didn’t generally have to bother about timetables apart from early and night times, as they knew that they on the whole the next ferry was only 10 or so minutes away. So, to be fair the travellers of Cowal actually supported the demise of the town centre vehicle service, whether the knew it or not. Why, oh why, when the whole tender issue came up a few years ago, did the people of Cowal not then leave Western Ferries in their droves and support the town centre route, and make sure it remained?

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 5:45 pm Reply
    • For DunoonLad: The Western ferries shuttle is surely more accurately described as a service rather than a marketing ploy?

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      newsroom November 27, 2011 5:54 pm Reply
    • I commuted by car daily and I had tickets for both ferries. I traveled by Western far more than CalMac, even though it was a less convenient route, purely and simply because the “next” ferry would almost inevitably be Western – just as you suggest in your post.

      Note though that I did travel a fair bit on CalMac. This means that the removal of the CalMac service makes commuting of that kind less practical. So Dunoon becomes less attractive to commuters.

      Your question should be “why, oh why, were the timetable restrictions not lifted years ago”.

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      ferryman November 27, 2011 6:31 pm Reply
  • Why do people continually regurgitate the obsolete Deloitte and Touche report? It was so flawed, and out of date, when it was released that it was immediately followed by an Addendum, which drew significantly different conclusions.

    To Jim – I understood that as Neil Kay always referred to this report as being the way forward, that this was the case. Can you please give us a few of the flaws to see what the issues are?

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    DunoonLad November 27, 2011 6:00 pm Reply
    • The initial report did not include the costs of providing a new ferry terminal at Dunoon. Once that had been entered into the equation, the amended report concluded: “The option, therefore, fails to prove itself the best value for money for the taxpayer, unless radical assumptions are added about the future cost structure of the operation.”

      The reports are available on the Scottish Executive’s website here : http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library2/doc15/fogd-00.asp

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      Jim Williamson November 30, 2011 4:44 pm Reply
  • Reading through the rather impressive collection of comments, one hopes our national govt in Scotland appreciates the ‘joke passenger ferry’ debacle has the potential to be the PR success the trams have been for Edinburgh City.

    An obvious ‘quick fix’ would be to reinstate the streaker service over winter and abolish the historical timetable.

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    Grant MacDonald November 27, 2011 6:50 pm Reply
    • That would be an idea if the ferries had not been scrapped.

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      ferryman November 27, 2011 7:15 pm Reply
  • Hers’s another report on the same meeting just in case anyone wants a bit of balance. http://www.cowalcourier.com/russell-faces-storm-of-protest-over-ferries-debacle/
    A friend pointed out to me it was interesting that Mike Russell got a bit of a political doing at this meeting and a few hours later publishes his highly personalised attack on Members of the Council on the Jura ferry issue…
    Deflectors on full Mikeyboy…. 😉

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    Simon November 27, 2011 7:39 pm Reply
    • You have a “friend”? 😉

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      Crazy She-Bat November 27, 2011 7:49 pm Reply
    • Simon: brilliant as perhaps you are, your rather unusual sense of humour seems to have got in the way of rational thought, because anyone being misrepresented in this way is likely to defend themselves vigorously – and the injustice of the attack does seem to be beyond much doubt at all. That the misrepresentation was by democratically elected people entrusted to run our local council, on our behalf – rather than some half-baked twerp – makes the situation not just worse but disgraceful. That the misrepresentation was targeted at a government minister on the one hand makes the situation even more incredible and on the other guarantees a robust response. Anyone on the receiving end of this sort of venal mudslinging has the absolute right to expose the mudslingers for what they are – in this case, political garbage.

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      Robert Wakeham November 27, 2011 8:16 pm Reply
      • “…half-baked twerp….”

        That about sums him up!

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        morag November 27, 2011 8:30 pm Reply
    • I’ve actually not bothered reading the Cowal Courier. I had a glossy leaflet pushed in my letter box which trumpeted the person behind the publication previously worked for News International.

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      Grant MacDonald November 28, 2011 12:55 am Reply
  • Here are the ferries Dunoon will not be getting – unless you keep fighting;

    http://www.cmassets.co.uk/en/our-work/projects/current-projects/hybrid-ferries-project.html

    “The ferries, which will be operated by the current operator of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services, CalMac are designed for use on many of the short crossing routes around the Clyde and Hebrides and will use some of the most innovative new ‘green’ technology, including battery banks supplying a minimum of 20% of the energy consumed on board.

    Each ferry will be designed to accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars or 2 HGVs, with a service speed of nine knots and will be powered by small diesel generator sets, feeding power to a 400 volt switchboard, which will supply power to electric propulsion motors that turn the propulsion units.”

    Although new in passenger ferries this type of technology has been used in submarines for a long time, so it should be quite reliable – certainly cannot be worse than what we have now.

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    ferryman November 27, 2011 7:42 pm Reply
  • And some more for balance. http://www.cowalcourier.com/calmac-boss-apologises-for-unreliable-service-2/

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    Simon November 27, 2011 7:44 pm Reply
  • Crazy – “You have a “friend”?” – certainly a few more than your buddy Russell had on Thursday in Dunoon…. 😉

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    Simon November 27, 2011 8:06 pm Reply
  • At least the MSP came on here to defend himself – where’s Cllr Currie and friends?

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    James Walsh November 27, 2011 8:25 pm Reply
  • Is he my buddy? Have you been looking at my friends list? 😉

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    Crazy She-Bat November 27, 2011 8:48 pm Reply
  • Crazy 😉

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    Simon November 27, 2011 9:29 pm Reply
  • How do I get to see all the comments?
    On the front page the most recent 8 comments are shown, when I click ‘show older comments’ the first 25 are shown.
    How do I see the ones in between?

    Ta
    Harry

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    harrywragg November 28, 2011 12:22 am Reply
  • Pingback: Latest Car Transport News | ATS Transport

  • There is no point in building appropriate sized boats for what is regularly a stormy crossing without building them to carry vehicles.
    Passenger-only run this route can only operate with huge public subsidy.
    This is a fact!
    Passenger/vehicle ferries PROPERLY RUN on this crossing – ie without the destructive restriction enforced on them, do not need a subsidy.
    This also is a fact!
    Passenger-only ferries do not bring visiting traffic into Dunoon – a town which relies heavily on visitors.

    Which part of the above two simple points does For Argyll have difficulty understanding?

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    Dave McEwan Hill November 28, 2011 1:30 am Reply
    • For Dave McEwan Hill: Your problem is that NOT ONE business sees what the proponents of your position persist in believing.

      It would be unusual if any entrepreneurs who saw a profitable business in tendering to add an unsubsidised vehicle service to a passenger carrier had decided not to tender because they did not trust themselves to run it properly.

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      newsroom November 28, 2011 10:13 am Reply
      • For Newsroom:

        You seem to have a very simplistic view of of how businesses invest. What businesses do you think might have invested in the ferries?

        FA supported a passenger only service. You have got a passenger only service, it does not work, yet again it is not running because of the weather. You made a mistake, everybody does – now have the grace to admit your error. This is serious, people are having their wages docked because they cannot get to work. It is nolonger a case of just soapboxing on a blog.

        You have continued to persist with vague notions about a first class passenger service but have not put forward one practical suggestion about how that would be achieved. What would the tonnage of the vessels be, how many passengers would they carry, who would pay for them. You need to get a grip on reality. Even a quick calculation would show the absurdity of using sufficient large boats just for passengers.

        The only sensible way out of this mess is a vehicle and passenger service.

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        ferryman November 28, 2011 12:10 pm Reply
        • For ferryman: We were the only one to set out to do a first hand and exhaustive analysis of the passenger service in action, identifying faults and lacks at an early but fair stage of its service: http://forargyll.com/2011/08/the-dunoon-passenger-ferry-experience/

          We have regularly identified the necessary actions to be taken. We rest our case on our record, which has always been based on research, evidence and analysis (all of which we openly share) and not on sentiment.

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          newsroom November 28, 2011 12:40 pm Reply
          • For Newsroom (aka soapbox):
            The Ali Cat was has been running for a long time, its inability to operate a full time service in winter weather was there for anybody to see – did you look. The Scottish Transport contract excludes failures to run due to weather, it also excludes 4 weeks of maintenance – have you read it.
            Your site makes it clear that you express opinions so nobody visiting it can expect it to be unbiased. However in the responses section it is missleading to call yourself “Newsroom”, Soapbox would be more appropriate. You simply repeat your views with little to show that there is any real thought or evidence behind them.
            It is FA that has been overtaken by events. The reality is that there is a passenger service and it is not working.
            You are still avoiding giving any suggestion of how you think the service can be made to run in winter weather.
            Yet again what boats would you use for a reliable winter service, what would be their tonnage and passenger capacity, who would pay for them? Regarding the entrepreneurs you keep speaking about, who are they, who exactly did you think might be interested in and have capital available for a ferry venture?

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            ferryman November 28, 2011 1:42 pm
  • Have to agree with D.McEwan Hill – after all “two new car/passenger ferries” this is only what appeared in the SNP manaifesto. I seem to remember that Dave is an snp activist (?) who wrote at the the time he joined to make things better not worse.

    What was foisted on the people of Dunoon and Cowal by this Scottish Govt and their local MSP is a disgrace, inadequate and certainly not what was promised.

    FA has predictably ‘spun’ the meeting to suit the snp luvvies on here. But let’s face it or the sitting MSP and Scottish Minister to be booed, jeered and laughed at by a public meeting in his ‘home’ town – then obviously the Dunoon/Cowal public feel he is a) responsible and b) has let down his own constituents.

    A bit of an own goal really, so let’s all hope those constituents rememmber this second class treatment by the snp at the next elections.

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    Simon November 28, 2011 9:54 am Reply
    • Forargyll need to rethink this one even if it doesnt suit their normal political support angle! Better to hold the hands up.

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      phill November 28, 2011 5:24 pm Reply
  • I’ve just picked up on this report, although have spoken to numerous people who attended the meeting; like Simon I am not surprised at the way this has been skewed, given FA’s track record of blind support for the SNP.
    It’s quite extrordinary that FA has chosen to produce a piece which portrays the people of Dunoon as short-sighted Luddites simply to propagate Mike Russell’s image. (the man who ‘does not support much of what was done by the government in the lead up to the introduction of this service’….forgive me, but wasn’t he part of the government?)
    A couple of points need to be addressed: as I understand it, the council built the breakwater to protect the existing pier. The linkspan was added on – and funded – at the insistence of the then Scottish Government.
    This is supported by the fact that it was officially opened by Nicol Stephen, then the transport minister – not FA’s bogeyman, Dick Walsh, who might have been the obvious choice had the linkspan been the council’s baby.
    As for the comment that “The town is the fiefdom of Council Leader, Dick Walsh and Dunoon has been taught to understand which side of its bread to look after”…..that sort of comment is utterly contemptible – Dunoon isn’t Libya, nor is Walsh Ghaddafi.
    Similarly FA is – not for the first time – being very selective when it asks why no company was interested in tendering for a vehicle service.
    The tender was on the basis of a six-year contract – there isn’t a ferry operator on the planet which would build vessels to run a service for such a short contract – bearing in mind, of course, that the promise from Mr Russell’s predecessor what that the SNP were going to build them in the first place….
    And again FA repeats the old canard that there isn’t room for two competing vehicle services on the Cowal route.
    Aye, right. So why did Western Ferries chose to commence operations there in the first place?
    I am also assured from someone who actually attended the meeting that there was no invitation from a councillor to Mr Russell to go outside and fight. The invitation was indeed for Mr Russell to fight – but for his constituents – a rather different proposition.
    Re the spin on this – I live in a different country – FA is on a different planet

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    bill jardine November 28, 2011 11:17 am Reply
    • For Bill Jardine; This is a level of dishonesty unworthy of your previous record and you do Dunboon no favours by taking this very easy option, offe3ring it succour to stay in the rut it has got itself stuck in.

      From a comfortable distance, you are happy to support the complacent irrational whingeing that will take Dunoon nowhere.

      Form being here, in the middle of it, we are willing to risk audiences to put the real interests of the town first in putting an evidenced but unpopular set of perspectives for it to consider.

      While you and we may often disagree, we would have expected more intellectual engagement and, frankly, more balls than this from you.

      Nothing we have said is ‘biased’ and nothing is about supporting the SNP or not . We have been swingeingly and unequivocally critical of the SNP administration that has brought about the present mess – and arguably more mercilessly so than any.

      What we are saying is based on economic and functional logic with observation of data that was there for everyone to see on Thursday night – which we recorded and, in analysing it after the event, came to realise what interesting dynamic changes it showed.

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      newsroom November 28, 2011 1:28 pm Reply
  • Newsie “For Dave McEwan Hill: Your problem is that NOT ONE business sees what the proponents of your position persist in believing.” – try looking at Bill Jardine’s post abpove and even you might just work why.
    And if you can’t find it – here’s what he said “The tender was on the basis of a six-year contract – there isn’t a ferry operator on the planet which would build vessels to run a service for such a short contract”.
    Remembering all the time of course that the SNP had made an election manifesto promise to build two new ferries.
    The snp and Mike Russell have treated the people of Cowal and Dunoon with arrogance and contempt – and that’s why between 400 and 600 angry constituents turned out on a wet windy night.

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    Simon November 28, 2011 11:35 am Reply
  • For Argyll states “Only a madman would think it was a good idea to deliver cars bang into a town centre.” Really I thought this was the problem, a town that depends heavily on tourism has been bypassed. For Argyll clearly dislikes Dunoon that is clear from the content of this report.

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    Campbell Cowan November 28, 2011 12:38 pm Reply
    • For Campbell Cowan: For Argyll does not dislike Dunoon but is exasperated by its apparent inability to look at what it needs to do to make itself an attractive and worthwhile place for visitors – and to get on with it.

      Ferrying cars to the ‘centre’ of a place with frankly little to offer is ferrying in those with the means to move on – and they did.

      Ferrying in foot passengers is delivering hostages with no means of escape – and, brutally, this is Dunoon’s best bet commercially until it gets its act together.

      Of all of Argyll’s major towns, Dunoon is the noisiest in complaining and the one evidently least minded to help itself. The town has real assets (all of which need serious work) but – except for the Burgh Hall project (which has an external engine) – but is showing no will to recast itself to develop these.
      The magnificent pier has been left to rot with no voting threats to protect it.
      The Queen’s Hall is still standing.
      The ‘town centre’ is an obstructive mess, with ‘traffic calmers’ and a peppering of bollards and posts of all kinds. Driving and walking through it is a positively unpleasant and untranquil experience.
      The esplanade is – what exactly?
      The road system around the pier and ferries area is such a shapeless desert it is utterly indecipherable to drivers from elsewhere.
      Similarly, the road system at and beyond the McColls Hotel building is incoherent.
      The potentially attractive and charming hill streets beyond the pier, which could become a lively inner village, go unrecognised in their potential and, of course, undeveloped..
      There is a serious crime problem, much of it imported with crime families from Clydebank – drugs, knives and guns – which manifests itself in anti-social and violent behaviour in the evenings, in parts of the town visitors might otherwise like to be around at that time of day.

      Overall, the town is tired, jaded, shapeless, visually resistant to interest, sometimes threatening and short of enough first class retail and service opportunities to attract and retain visitors.

      Dunoon has had councillors leading Argyll and Bute for a long time now, yet they are regularly and unquestioningly voted back despite the shape the town is in. There has been no integrated, intelligent, strategic envisioning and planning for the economic development and the future of this important town.

      If Dunoon buys promises rather than delivery and is not interested in doing anything other than continually demanding the sort of ferry service it does not need, there is little anyone else can do for it.

      And that should underpin just why Dunoon exasperates us.

      The entire Cowal peninsula badly needs Dunoon to shape up because it is needed as the economic engine of the area – and that is its responsibility.

      Nothing would be so energising and nothing as much fun as seeing Dunoon gather the will to reshape itself strategically for a prosperous future. If there were evidence of that, Dunoon would find For Argyll amongst its most vigorous and inventive supporters.

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      newsroom November 28, 2011 1:15 pm Reply
      • For Newsroom [aka soapbox]:
        “Ferrying in foot passengers is delivering hostages with no means of escape – and, brutally, this is Dunoon’s best bet commercially until it gets its act together.”

        So that is the depth of your analysis! It may have escaped you but a lot of people have cars and passengers can travel on vehicle ferries to. It is also not only hostages who use the ferries but people trying to get to and from work and get on with their lives.

        The cost is the thing that keeps people away. Lets have some competition where an attempt is made to increase car and passenger volumes and decrease or at least hold prices.

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        ferryman November 28, 2011 2:19 pm Reply
      • I would not disagree with much of that. After over 50 years in the town, I have now moved on to pastures new. While it was mainly for personal reasons, I realised that there is a world out there which does not revolve around a small grey town with small ideas. When I return, as I do every few weeks, to see family, I look forward to leaving again. My advice to my children is to do the same before it’s too late. Don’t get stuck in the rut. It would take a huge change of attitude by those in positions to make a difference and I don’t think they have it in them to do that. The ferry fiasco is but a symptom.

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        Andy November 28, 2011 4:02 pm Reply
      • To ‘forargyll’, you have just guaranteed Dick Walsh another term (among those who drop in on this site).

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        phill November 28, 2011 5:32 pm Reply
        • I very much doubt that! Perhaps Dunoon would have been better served by a councillor who actually managed to achieve something in regard to the ferry service rather than just impotently grandstanding at public meetings. Where was ABC when it came to demanding a vehicle ferry from the SG for this route?

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          Dr Douglas McKenzie November 28, 2011 5:44 pm Reply
          • Wait and see!

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            phill November 28, 2011 5:52 pm
          • I thought the rumours were that he was going to retire?

            “In the twilight of my career” – Dick Walsh, June 2011

            Please Dick, retire.

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            Crazy She-Bat November 28, 2011 6:21 pm
      • Newsroom – Have you taken your medication?

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        Gus MacKay November 28, 2011 11:25 pm Reply
  • The 9am Argyll Ferry this morning from Gourock was delayed and left just after 10.
    Half way across the passengers were advised to put on life jackets.
    Perhaps it was a practice but that was not the understanding of the passengers.
    The crossing took around 50 minutes.
    Fit for purpose! I think not.

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    David Graham November 28, 2011 1:22 pm Reply
    • Can somebody verify that people were asked to put on lifejackets?

      If that is correct then it seems exceptional, never in years of crossing the Clyde have I heard of that happening, even as a drill – never mind for real.
      That includes when a streaker returned to port after being holed below the waterline.

      Assuming the post is correct I re-iterate my earlier post that that these little ferries can cope with much lighter seas and that so have a smaller margin of error than the other ferries. If Captains are pressured to put to sea to keep to timetables then a tragedy could happen. The blame will lie with the politicians and officials who provided inadequate boats, but no doubt it will be the Captain that carries the can.

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      ferryman November 28, 2011 2:08 pm Reply
    • OFFICIAL CORRECTION OF INFORMATION ON THIS POST.
      We have unequivocal official information from Argyll Ferries that this incident is a complete fabrication. It never happened.

      This alarmist claim is therefore, according to the company, utterly untrue and the propagation of such material cannot be other than mischievous.

      If there are people with first hand experience of the alleged incident and possibly mobile phone photographs who wish to contradict this, they should make that known and we will communicate it to the company.

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      newsroom November 29, 2011 10:58 am Reply
      • I thought it might be a spoof, I trust the people in charge of the ferries not to put the vessels at risk. They could get caught out though as they don’t have the same margin for error as the larger boats.

        On that point the original Transport Scotland Tender was for vessels with Class V certificates. Subsequently this was ugraded to Class IV certificates. If I am correct (could be wrong) Class V certificates could have realised a saving mainly in safety equipment requirements such as life-rafts etc.

        The tender was changed when it was pointed out, by the public, that vessels with Class V certificates could not use the new linkspan in winter.

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        ferryman November 29, 2011 2:05 pm Reply
        • Actually, the original tender spec called for Class 4 (which in winter is what Rothesay requires), not Class 5. The limit for Class 5 was originally to the south end of the timber pier, but was extended to include the breakwater after negotiation with the MCA. As far as I am aware, both ALI CAT and ARGYLL FLYER sail on a Class 4 certificate.

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          Jim Williamson November 29, 2011 11:01 pm Reply
  • Newsie – “Dunoon but is exasperated by its apparent inability to look at what it needs to do to make itself an attractive and worthwhile place for visitors – and to get on with it.”

    Gosh! How clever you are Newsie. Why you are not in charge of everything in Argyll, Scotland, the UK, Europe, the world the Universe I’ll never know.

    Newsie- very pass-remarkable. 🙂

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    Simon November 28, 2011 3:05 pm Reply
  • For FOR ARGYll : Exactly you hate the town and have nothing good to say about it. It might surprise FA but I find Dunoon rather pleasant and one of the better and nicest towns on the Clyde.Take away through tourist traffic and a town struggles it is that simple.

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    Campbell Cowan November 28, 2011 4:16 pm Reply
    • Dunoon has lots going for it even in these tough times. Good local community minded folk, the Cowal gathering, and i have enjoyed several Mods there and look forward to being there again soon.

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      phill November 28, 2011 5:37 pm Reply
  • total fabrication regarding lifejackets and a 50 min crossing, all morning sailings left within 3 minutes of sailing time seems someone wants a headline grabber that just isn.t there

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    innes craig November 28, 2011 4:51 pm Reply
    • No doubt the truth will come out, perhaps it is mischief making. I have not hear about lifejackets being issued from anybody claiming to have actually been on the boat, but I have hear the rumour from a couple of directions.

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      radman November 28, 2011 5:56 pm Reply
  • Newsroom: ‘A level of dishonesty unworthy of my previous record?’
    Would you care to instance specifically where I have been dishonest in this posting?
    Or is perhaps that you are miffed because I have once again pointed out that you deliberately – and dare I say dishonestly – omit facts or even invent ‘facts’ of your own to suit your case?
    What precisely do you mean by ‘intellectual engagement’?
    If it means challenging an argument in which insult and misinformation are presented as facts, then I’m certainly guilty of that.
    ‘We have been swingeingly and unequivocally critical of the SNP administration that has brought about the present mess – and arguably more mercilessly so than any’.
    Claptrap.
    You have been critical, almost exclusively, of Stewart Stevenson, not the SNP government, and certainly not the present SNP MSP or his predecessor, both of whom were members of the government at the time of the ferry stitchup.
    “From a comfortable distance, you are happy to support the complacent irrational whingeing that will take Dunoon nowhere.”
    What has the ‘comfortable distance” got to do with it, and what precisely do you mean by ‘complacent irrational whingeing”?
    These are three words that don’t quite work together; I think what you are trying to say, in you customary obtuse fashion, is ‘justified anger at a broken promise and the utterly duplicitous manner in which it was carried out’.
    ‘While you and we may often disagree, we would have expected more intellectual engagement and, frankly, more balls than this from you’.
    Intellectual engagement? I suspect you are confusing this with waffle.
    As for lacking ‘balls’ you imply that I am lacking courage. Am I missing something or are you simply being gratuitously insulting?
    A little less ego, tempered with a touch of maturity on your part, wouldn’t go amiss.

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    bill jardine November 28, 2011 5:12 pm Reply
    • Newsroom [aka soapbox]’s post was pretty vacuous. Interesting viewpoint though that the long held and oft expressed view of the majority in Dunoon for a vehicle and passenger service is dismissed as “complacent irrational whingeing that will take Dunoon nowhere”.

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      ferryman November 28, 2011 6:56 pm Reply
  • Newsie, “[Bill Jardine] we would have expected more intellectual engagement and, frankly, more balls than this from you”.

    Tsk, tsk, tsk, Newsie – you’re losing it.

    Did Bill Jardine touch a wee raw nerve there with his ‘forensic’ analysis then? 😉

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    Simon November 28, 2011 6:00 pm Reply
    • Dont lose the plot, newsroom as youre surely bigger than your recent responses.

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      phill November 28, 2011 6:28 pm Reply
  • It is rather disconcerting an analysis of the current dreadful and potentionally dangerous passenger ferry has turned into a political point scoring competition.

    This behaviour, I suspect, is why we’ve ended up with a 3rd rate, 3rd world class of transportation and does not reflect well on several posters.

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    Grant MacDonald November 28, 2011 7:03 pm Reply
    • Well said – some people do seem to consider the ferry issue is just an excuse for revisiting ad nauseum the historical impact of various governments on this service, and I’m sure I’ll be bitterly criticised for saying so.

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      Robert Wakeham November 28, 2011 7:23 pm Reply
    • Exactly. All the politicians are more interested in protecting their own party from the blame and expend more energy blaming the other parties than they do on solving the problem. This attitude now appears to be spreading to the other interested bystanders who, like the politicians, sling mud in all directions and try to avoid getting splattered themselves. The comments on this news item prove that. So far only two politicians, that I know of, have admitted to getting it wrong and apologised. One of them now has to use his time defending himself instead of getting to grips with the problem.
      ALL political parties are to blame and the sooner they ALL admit it and ALL work together, the sooner Dunoon might get the result it wants. Of course it now seems Dunoon does not really know what it wants.

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      Andy November 28, 2011 7:41 pm Reply
    • See “Simon” below.

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      Dr Douglas McKenzie November 28, 2011 7:42 pm Reply
  • Actually Grant – the reason you have (to use your words) a “potentionally dangerous passenger ferry” is purely down to politics and party politics at that.

    Every Govt has to define its prioirites when it comes to spending. The decison NOT to honour their pre-election pledge to build two new car/passengers ferries is purely down to the SNP. It really is as simple as that.

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    Simon November 28, 2011 7:24 pm Reply
    • Perhaps “Simon” can point me to where the SNP promised to provide car ferries for this run? I have looked through the 2011 SNP manifesto and find not a word about Dunoon ferries (lot’s of other interesting stuff but nothing about ferries). Was it in the 2007 manifesto? Indeed, did any of the bidders for the route ask the SG to provide car ferries to make their bids viable?

      Of course, this is actually about sport. People like “Simon” don’t care about sorting the problem – indeed the longer it goes on the happier “Simon” gets as his objective is to sow discord.

      I have said before that this is a very peripheral issue for me (and I live in Argyll). The rest of Scotland when faced with the facts will be scratching their heads and wondering what the fuss is about. However, there are clearly a lot of people unhappy about this so I am attracted to looking for solutions.

      There appear to be two problems: the suitability (or otherwise) of the passenger ferries being used on this route and the poor state of landing facilities on both sides of the water. These problems seem solvable with political will. I think I saw in the thread somewhere that Mr Russell has asked for a review of the suitability of the vessels. If they are found to be deficient then new vessels can be procured or the contract re-tendered. Might be legally messy but it can be done. Pontoons and better passenger facilities appears straightforward and there seems general goodwill towards this(and as an aside there have been lots of ferry cancellations this week so judging the suitability of the Dunoon ferries on cancellations or delays this week does not appear a fair test).

      The second problem is the question of a vehicle versus a passenger service for this route. I detailed what needs to be done on another thread if people really want a vehicle service. It is clear that the SG are not just going to change their minds on this issue because people abuse them and Mr Russell in particular. It will take work and the preparation of a business case followed by a proposal to the SG. This will take time but if a vehicle service is what the people of Dunoon want then this is what is needed.

      Of course, if what people really want to do is apportion blame for the position we find ourselves in then I suggest the formation of an impartial enquiry team to look at the roles of the various SG administrations; the UK government, The EU; ABC and Inverclyde Council. This can reach a decision on where the fault (if any) lies and people can vent their spleen in the full knowledge that their targets are justified.

      Here is what Cllr Walsh wrote back in May:
      “It is very disappointing that the process has not produced what the communities wanted – a regular vehicle and passenger service between Dunoon and Gourock town centres.

      “Having said that, I am pleased that we finally have a clear decision from the government which will allow us to move on and work out how best to ensure that the people of Dunoon and the surrounding area can benefit from the service they will have.”

      Moving on seems a better option than indiscriminate hurling of abuse, particularly if people have a clear idea of where they want to move to.

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      Dr Douglas McKenzie November 28, 2011 8:11 pm Reply
      • “and as an aside there have been lots of ferry cancellations this week so judging the suitability of the Dunoon ferries on cancellations or delays this week does not appear a fair test”
        Ah, so whenever the weather is rough you cannot judge if the ferry can handle rough weather. It is actually very easy to judge you look to see how it is performing against Western Ferries which is running in close proximity. You can also look at the historical record of the Ali Cat when it ran alongside the streakers on exactly the same route.
        I have traveled in the streaker when the Ali Cat was off and it had no trouble. Likewise on 24th when Ali Cat was off the Western crossing was only at the low end of what these crossings can be like.
        Today Argyll Ferries resumed normal service at 19:25 then stopped for the day at 20:18!

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        ferryman November 28, 2011 8:42 pm Reply
        • Ferryman: I agree. You can compare the record of ferries in similar waters under similar conditions to decide if one is “up” to the job or not. My point was simply that the last week has been one of intemperate weather so to use it in isolation as “proof” of anything is dubious.

          It takes a comparison over many weeks, indeed months, to smooth out the variation (masters reluctance to go to sea; localised weather conditions; berthing etc) before a forensic decision on appropriateness of a specific vessel can be made.

          I have nothing to say on the actual suitability of the boats currently used on the route but I would add that the actual suitability (as judged by the appropriate authorities) is less important than the perception of the passengers.

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          Dr Douglas McKenzie November 28, 2011 10:28 pm Reply
          • I disagree that you need to spend months on this, though there are long records for the Ali Cat.

            What you need is experience on Western Ferries and the Streakers and then to sail on the new ferries in slightly rough weather.

            In bad weather Western Ferries keep part of the car deck clear and sail with cars going backwards to try to avoid car windscreens being smashed – which happens. The only time I have felt seriously at risk on a ferry was when I thought a Streaker was going to capsise. The current ferries cannot remotely consider putting to sea in conditions such as those so they are inevitably less reliable.

            As far as public perceptions are concerned at the meeting people reported feeling ill, afraid and apparently people have been screaming. I would have though the weather prior to the meeting had actually been very quiet. It has been rougher since the meeting with the Argyll Ferries delayed, running half time and cancelled – but the sea conditions are not exceptional in the winter here.

            We are not even in December yet, so unless we have calm winter there will be more of the same.

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            ferryman November 29, 2011 1:18 pm
      • Dr McKenzie: Like you, I watch these proceedings from afar, with great interest. It’ reported (reliably, I’ll bet) by FA – above – that, at the meeting, Archie Robertson of David MacBrayne Ltd declared the company’s intention to install a pontoon at Gourock, near the head of the existing station platforms (far closer to the trains than the vehicle link span). This suggests a serious commitment to providing a more civilised (and presumably step-free) passenger route between boat and train, but precludes the use of vehicle ferries. The only way to even attempt a similar quality of passenger provision at the existing link span would be by rebuilding the station closer to Calmac’s terminal, and either herding the human traffic down the vehicle ramp (as at Dunoon) or providing a civilised gangway link. I understand that the existing station is currently having considerable money spent on repairs and improvements, so in a rational world it’s unlikely to be relocated anytime soon.

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        Robert Wakeham November 28, 2011 8:48 pm Reply
      • For Dr Douglas McKenzie:
        “If they are found to be deficient then new vessels can be procured or the contract re-tendered”.

        That is a big part of the problem, what do you mean by deficient? SG have been given exactly what they asked for. Under the contract these ferries don’t have to be able to put to sea in winter weather. As long as the Master decides its not safe the ferry stays in port but is deemed to have made the journey on time. So if the Master is in charge of a rowing boat and the weather is a wee bit choppy it can stay in port and meet the contract – a brilliant piece of work by Transport Scotland.

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        ferryman November 28, 2011 9:38 pm Reply
        • To be honest, I think this is true of all ferries (indeed all craft). The master’s decision on whether or not to go to sea is his (or rarely hers) alone and is final.

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          Dr Douglas McKenzie November 28, 2011 10:30 pm Reply
          • The Masters decision is final, but if you give him a rowing boat and a rough sea what will his decision be?

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            ferryman November 29, 2011 1:21 pm
  • For Innes Craig
    Argyll Ferries App for Smart Phone says
    Sailings subject to disruption due to adverse weather conditions.Weather permitting this service will resume as normal with the 19.20 sailing from Gourock.
    (Strangely) it also says
    Disruption ends 29 November 18.46
    Last updated since 28 November 10.05
    Think the 29 Nov should read 28 Nov. Clearly disruptions for most of today 28 Nov.
    Fact!

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    David Graham November 28, 2011 7:25 pm Reply
    • You do not mention the fact that the Arran, Bute and Cumbrae services are also disrupted. Get a balance!

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      Andy November 28, 2011 7:47 pm Reply
      • Arran, Bute and Cumbrae are are all well into Category D waters. The Dunoon route is in Category C apart from the new linkspan (the line runs from the Cloch lighthouse to Dunoon pier). For me the the measure is whether or not Western ran, as far as I know they have not had to stop but Argyll Ferries has been variously stopped, disrupted and running a half service throughout the day.

        Any more news on the lifejackets was it just a leg-pull?

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        ferryman November 28, 2011 8:06 pm Reply
  • I wonder if anyone at the meeting mentioned that, if the Clyde was in Norway, there’d be a tunnel under it by now.

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    Robert Wakeham November 28, 2011 8:12 pm Reply
  • Getting lazy “doc”? A simple google would’ve got you this link including the quote below. If only you had looked at the 2007 SNP manifesto promise from Jim Mather you’d found it. 😉

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-12998156 and I quote

    “During the Holyrood election campaign of that year [2007] the successful Argyll and Bute SNP candidate Jim Mather pledged to provide new boats”

    .

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    Simon November 28, 2011 8:56 pm Reply
    • So it is in the 2007 SNP manifesto then? I just ask because you have frequently said it was a manifesto commitment and I’m just trying to pin this down.

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      Dr Douglas McKenzie November 28, 2011 10:55 pm Reply
  • I had no intention of getting involved in this website again until I heard of “Newsroom”‘s despicable ramblings. Anyone who knows me locally in Dunoon knows that i am just Neil Kay but to have a patronising, ignorant and self-important “Newsroom” promulgate misinformation on the economics of ferries and where I and my family live is just insufferable.

    For the record, I have forty years experience as a practicing economist and have held professorships in that area in three continents. I presently hold two professorships in that area in Scottish universities. “Newsroom” says she disagrees (in patronising and pejorative terms) about my analysis on the economics of the Gourock-Dunoon ferries but all she has produced is nonsense. In critiquing my arguments she says she has been an academic, which she obviously feels gives her chapter to spout quasi-intellectual rubbish, but even most former academics leave a trace behind in terms of publications (or indeed of presence) but I can find no trace of any dent she made on the world of academia so that supposed qualification is subject to an appropriate credibility discount.

    But it is not that which frankly enraged me. Her comments on the Dunoon ferry meeting about “agent provocateur and leader of a lynch mob”, “Irish joke” “inherent dishonesty at the meeting” and “In our eyes, Dunoon ferry users lost serious credibility” were simply crass and wrong.

    But what was really sickening was the comment where she said about “one hilarious sequence of audience responses: ‘Who’s been sick on the boat?’ ‘Who’s had children sick on the boat?’ ‘Who’s been frightened?’ ‘Who’s missed a train?’ Who’s missed a hospital appointment?’ Who’s not got to work?’…It was pretty reminiscent of the – not unrealistic – parody of the behaviour of media hounds on the scene of a disaster, looking for someone fit to speak to the cameras: ‘Any elderly black women who’ve lost a limb and are willing to speak to us?’

    Hilarious? How disgusting, how low, how patronising – and frankly how stupid , insensitive and ignorant can you get? How can you make fun of people and communities who are frightened with good reason about their jobs, their health, their safety, and their future? You stupid, ignorant, insensitive woman.

    My website is called “brocher,com” because a Brocher is someone who comes from Fraserburgh. I was brought up and educated there, and I am proud of it and the town that educated and sustained me even though – even because – the town has seen real economic and social problems in recent years, just like Dunoon.

    Fraserburgh and Dunoon have real similarities on many counts and I wanted my children to have the quality of life and broad educational and social experience at Dunoon Grammar that I got at Fraserburgh Academy. And you know what? It worked, For thing my children don’t patronise like you do. they do not make gratuitous, ignorant, insulting and ill informed insults about communities they know little about like you do, and they part of the whole community here in a way that someone like you could never be.

    So please just go away and stop embarrassing yourself with these fatuous “Newsroom” pronouncements. No-one who knows anything about these issues takes anything you say seriously. You are doing damage but the most damage you are doing is to yourself.

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    Neil Kay November 28, 2011 9:18 pm Reply
    • Has there been a change in editorial staff at ‘forargyll’?

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      phill November 28, 2011 10:16 pm Reply
  • Newsroom
    What contribution did Alan Reid MP,David Stewart MSP and the substitute for Jamie McGrigor make to the meeting?

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    David Graham November 28, 2011 10:10 pm Reply
  • Now I am getting frustrated.
    In the absence of useful comment, we have a circular firing squad in the best tradition of political contribution, all of which disregard Neil Kay has provided superb analysis in the past and the fact Newsroom has also made some uncomfortable and painfully accurate points about our local situation.

    Here’s a scenario.

    December 24th and the estuary is a bit choppy verging on dodgy for passengers from the other side.

    What’s a skipper on one of the toy boats going to decide?

    Here’s another scenario.

    The Ten o’clock news has a shot from a helicopter showing an inverted hull in the water.

    To move beyond point scoring, how about concentrating on the two scenario’s given.
    Would docking at Sandbank Marina provide a short crossing solution during the winter months? Whilst the Holy Loch can be choppy, it tends not to be as exciting as the estuary proper.
    I’ve no clear idea but suspect I just gave the only new thought in the previous 120+ comments.

    The core issue is here and now. What will fix it? Quickly?

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    Grant MacDonald November 29, 2011 1:44 am Reply
    • For Grant MacDonald: ‘The core issue is here and now. What will fix it? Quickly?’ This is a great attitude and this is what needs to be addressed – quickly.

      And your description of the Holy Loch as ‘not as exciting as the estuary proper’ gave us the best grin of the day. Thanks.

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      newsroom November 29, 2011 1:56 am Reply
      • For Newsroom [aka soapbox], so the solution is to use “Sandbank Marina” !!!!!!

        Is that not pretty much the equivalent of saying abandon the Argyll Ferry service altogether now and use Western Ferries as the only winter service. I suppose it means we don’t have to wait 6 years for the passenger only service to end.

        The only sensible thing to do at present is to lay on free courtesy buses to and from Western when the Argyll Ferries service cannot sail. Somebody was asking about this the other day in the CalMac office. The were told this had been discussed by the CalMac commercial manager but, as the problem was weather related (i.e. the service was running to contract), they would not be doing it.

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        ferryman November 29, 2011 8:17 am Reply
        • For ferryman: Please just read what we actually say.
          We said nothing about Sandbank Marina – we simply said that Mr MacDonald’s attitude is exemplary in its readiness to address the real and immediate issue – and that his careful description of the waters in the Holy Loch made us grin.

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          newsroom November 29, 2011 8:53 am Reply
  • For newsroom [aka soapbox] you wrote ‘One woman complained about a substantial storm that had grounded all the ferries, leaving her and her husband stranded for the night on the Gourock side and having to pay for a hotel. Now this was a “What planet are you on?’ question.’

    I think the woman was from Earth, probably Dunoon, but I am not sure about you. Her point may have been badly made but she had one and I would have thought your indepth knowledge and analysis would have addressed it rather than taking the mikey of a member of the public from your privileged position on a soapbox.

    We used to have a RESILIENT ferry service. There were two passenger/vehicle services each using ferries that could have a good go at running reliably in heavy weather. Either service might stop, for a variety of reasons, but it was pretty unusal for both to be completely off. In general one or the other would get you home. If they were both off then the weather would be so severe that the Erskine bridge would be closed and you would think twice about attempting to drive round because of fallen trees etc.

    Now we have only one car service, if it stops summer or winter, for whatever reason, there is no car ferry. In the winter there is now only one reliable passenger service – Western.

    So there is now a far more substantial risk of getting stuck on the wrong side. That is not an act of God, that is a direct result of the ferry decision and yes it will cost people money.

    This change has been a real reduction in service for both car and foot passengers.

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    ferryman November 29, 2011 8:38 am Reply
  • If buses are brought into service between Dunoon and Hunter’s Quay, and Gourock and McInroy’s Point it would certainly help. This is not a long term solution. Hopefully the politicians are now discussing the way forward, and the new user group may help as well.

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    DunoonLad November 29, 2011 8:49 am Reply
    • As well as buses a relief vessel is needed. Possibly a vehicle ferry that could use Dunoon pier 🙂

      I had hear that Keith Brown MSP and Minister for Transport, had been asked to arrange one for the one month maintenance outage we have just had. A month incidentlaly when the ferry was 100% reliable because maintenance does not count – thanks Transport Scotland.

      However as a relief vessel is not in the contract (thanks Transport Scoland) SG would have to pay for one which they seem to have declined to do.

      So Newsdesk there are some practical ideas busses and a relief boat. Are you going to get on your soapbox behind those?

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      ferryman November 29, 2011 1:29 pm Reply
  • Does anyone know what the problems were yesterday re high tides and the Dunoon linkspan?

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    DunoonLad November 29, 2011 8:52 am Reply
  • Bringing in buses, going into Sandbank and building pontoons are all short term suggestions to make up for the complete and utter inadequacies of this service. It’s this cheap ‘mend and make do’ attitude that infuriates people. Just like bringing these boats beam-on onto a ro-ro ferry terminal. This nonsense is compounded by the fact that neither boat has bow thrusters which results in much manouvering and use of stern springs to get out of Dunoon when the wind is strong and against the terminal.
    Frankly this is an amatuerish operation and the travelling public were promised and deserve better.

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    Simon November 29, 2011 9:12 am Reply
    • Simon: Whatever else you say, don’t make the mistake of suggesting that pontoons are a short term suggestion; they’re a long established and well-proven method of providing easy foot passenger access to boats at any stage of the tide, and predate the modern concept of ‘step-free access’ by at least a hundred years, if not two. My only question is whether a pontoon landing stage would be sufficiently robust to cope with the relatively exposed conditions at Gourock, but then the link span does, so I expect my concern is groundless.

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      Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 10:37 am Reply
      • They are a short term solution because the current boats are too small and unreliable and vehicle ferries are needed.

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        ferryman November 29, 2011 1:31 pm Reply
        • Ferryman: Passenger ferries and pontoon landing stages seem to work fine elsewhere in the world, so unless someone can prove categorically why they won’t work here I’d say that repeating the mantra that ‘we must have vehicle ferries’ is wearing a bit thin.

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          Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 1:50 pm Reply
  • Robert, I know about pontoons but thank you all the same.
    The salient point is under the previous arrangments passengers (on both Gourock and Dunoon side) stepped immediately from a pier onto a purpose-built gangway and straight onto the boat.
    Pontoons by their nature, designed to ‘float’ with the prevailing tide, are not as stable or to use your own word robust as a purpose built gangaway. I’m comfortable walking along swaying pontoons and they are most appropriate in marinas etc – but I’m really not sure about their suitability for the elderly, infirm or mothers pushing wheelchairs.
    As I said this is a ‘mend and make-do solution’ to better cope with the inadequacies of the poor berthing arrangements at both sides.

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    Simon November 29, 2011 10:53 am Reply
  • Newsie get’s in the neck for a biased report –

    “Hilarious? How disgusting, how low, how patronising – and frankly how stupid , insensitive and ignorant can you get? How can you make fun of people and communities who are frightened with good reason about their jobs, their health, their safety, and their future? You stupid, ignorant, insensitive woman.”

    Well said Neil Kay.

    ps Newsie’s a woman????????????????????????

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    Simon November 29, 2011 11:13 am Reply
  • Simon: ‘purpose built gangway’ is being a bit ‘economical with the actualite’ However traditional the design, the gangway was awkward, frequently quite steep with a step down off the top end, disabled-unfriendly and left the users exposed to the vagaries of our climate – in fact, primitive and probably not fit even for livestock if EC regulations were to be followed to the letter.

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    Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 11:15 am Reply
  • Simon: on further consideration, I don’t think you’re correct in your criticism of pontoons – you might be thinking of some of the lightweight designs used for small boat marinas, which can be quite flexible and sway under the weight of just one person. Ferry pontoons are, in my experience, a totally different animal – often roofed, and with an enclosed gangay connection to the quayside.

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    Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 11:22 am Reply
    • That would be £0.5M that would be better spent on a vehicle ferry then?

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      ferryman November 29, 2011 1:39 pm Reply
      • Ferryman: No, not if passenger ferries can be effective, as they can provide a better service for passengers if they can berth at Gourock Station rather than at the linkspan – and vehicles already have a very good ferry service nearby.

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        Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 1:53 pm Reply
        • There is no point in having a wonderful dock if they cannot sail. You are distant from this problem I am trying, and failing, to use these ferrys to get to and from work.

          I know for a fact there has already been one accident (at sea) and there have been reports of people being sick, all in relatively mild weather.

          There is simply no way these boats can carry the public as safely and reliably as the streakers did or Western do. Playing with pontoons is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic – might take your mind of the problem but does not solve it.

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          ferryman November 29, 2011 2:15 pm Reply
          • I’m relatively distant from the problem, but have occasionally used the ferries, and was taken aback at the sheer unpleasantness of the ‘passenger experience’ transferring between train and ‘streaker’ at Gourock. If you’re a foot passenger, you must have been enduring this; if you’re a vehicle driver, perhaps you’ve been unaware of it.

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            Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 2:38 pm
  • Neil Kay said:
    “Hilarious? How disgusting, how low, how patronising – and frankly how stupid , insensitive and ignorant can you get? How can you make fun of people and communities who are frightened with good reason about their jobs, their health, their safety, and their future? You stupid, ignorant, insensitive woman.”
    No points for diplomacy.
    Maximum points for accuracy – but might I add arrogant and ill-informed to the list of adjectives?

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    bill jardine November 29, 2011 12:03 pm Reply
    • You may, I would also add shallow and opinionated. I have come to that conclusion over the recent series of posts.

      There was always a quick response but never supported by detail and never a direct answer to a question.

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      ferryman November 29, 2011 1:37 pm Reply
  • David graham don,t understand your point,reply was regarding lifejackets and 55 min crossing.Fact

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    innes craig November 29, 2011 1:39 pm Reply
  • I,like many others,have read these comments and applaud constructive critism of the issues. However,whilst I may not agree all the time about all issues with Newsroom, I’m appalled at Neil Kays bitter words towards her. We are all entitled to comment and then make our own minds up as to the veracity of each others opinion.
    I cannot,for the life of me,understand such nasty comments as have appeared lately……without forargyll we have NO REAL VOICE… and I cannot impress enough that vicious comments hold no appeal and get you nowhere….
    Being a one-time user of ferries I am interested in this topic…..but let’s drop the vitriol please.

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    morag November 29, 2011 2:10 pm Reply
    • You don’t have a voice. Newsroom has a soapbox.

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      ferryman November 29, 2011 2:18 pm Reply
      • Ferryman – you are currently pontificating from a soapbox provided for you, and everyone else, by For Argyll.

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        Robert Mac November 29, 2011 6:00 pm Reply
        • FA produces the biased lead article which drives the debate on the blog. FA is open and frank that articles are biased which is good. I do though object to the term Newsroom which usually implies at least some balance and objectivity.

          There are lots of people with opinionated blogs on the internet, good luck to them. FA though is attempting to suggest that it is more than that, and a casual browser may think the lead article and the “newsroom” are more than just an opinionated blog. Yes others contribute to the blog but we certainly don’t have the “voice” that Newsroom has.

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          ferryman November 29, 2011 7:34 pm Reply
    • Well said, Morag.

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      Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 2:32 pm Reply
  • Morag says: I cannot,for the life of me,understand such nasty comments as have appeared lately……

    Me neither…but I think if you read the lead article it’s pretty clear that the trigger for said unpleasantness is in the article itself.

    As ye sow, so shall ye reap…

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    bill jardine November 29, 2011 3:03 pm Reply
  • I must confess to feeling a bit sad about the whole unpleasant tone of the debate on this issue. There appears to an effort to produce a lot more heat than light. Attempts to make constructive suggestions are just shot down.

    I’m sure there are some people laughing their heads off at the whole negativity around this issue which suits certain camps more than it serves the needs of the people of Dunoon.

    Perhaps EVERYONE should have a long hard look at themselves over this issue and how we should conduct ourselves and try to get back onto a constructive dialogue aimed at solving problems.

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    Dr Douglas McKenzie November 29, 2011 3:16 pm Reply
    • DDM
      Agree wholeheartedly. The level of debate confirmed FA’s stance on the public meeting which is unfortunate.

      Now, we run the risk of this shambles being kicked into touch with the creation of a Ferry Committee who’ll cheerfully mimic the previous 120+ posts whilst we remain with a substandard service through the most dangerous time of the year.

      ABC should be issuing press releases condemning the service. The elected MP and MSP should be asking questions in their respective parliaments. My real fear is nothing will be done until there is an incident.

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      Grant MacDonald November 29, 2011 4:33 pm Reply
  • Bill jardine’s comment of 28Nov 11.17am re breakwater, is correct, in that Council desired breakwater to protect pier, and add on of linkspan came from Scottish Gov. at that time. He will recall however that the Transport Minister shortly afterwards wrote to the council stating that although he had promised a linkspan, he had never promised a boat would come to it!!
    The SNP Government has faired no better, in fact worse if their pre-election promises of a vehicular/passenger service are taken into consideration
    Although the “no boats, no votes” action may have had some response from the electorate of Cowal, this was outweighed by the strength of support for the SNP from other areas of Argyll and Bute.
    This may not be the case however when it comes to the time of voting in next year’s local government elections, and local SNP councillors and prospective SNP councillors could suffer due to the failure of the Scottish Government in providing the ferry service that the majority of people want.
    The crux of the matter seems to be the difference of opinion on the legality of a vehicle and passenger ferry service operating town centre to town centre.
    Mike Russell’s first step should therefore be to obtain independent legal advice on this, with the company so charged to do this mutually agreed between the council and the Government.
    Dependent then on the definitive answer received, there would then be two possible outcomes to pursue,
    a) If determined that such a vehicle& passenger service is legal….Government obtains suitable vessels and makes corresponding changes in existing contract
    b) If proved that such a service is not legal….Government obtain better and more fit-for- purpose vessels for existing contract
    All the above should be completed within a short time scale, say end of January for legal decision determination, and improved service or boats in place by Easter.
    Such changes in contract may well require other ferry operators, such as Western Ferries, to be invited to tender again, and that may resurrect the concerns of some of a monopoly situation, however that should be weighed against the unsafe, unreliable service that currently exists, and could continue into the future.
    I am not an SNP supporter, however I would say this is the only way Mike Russell and the Scottish Government , can not only rescue the SNP from disaster at next year’s local elections, but can also provide this area, and the travelling public, with the type of town centre to town centre, safe, reliable service that was promised.

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    B.Chennell November 29, 2011 4:11 pm Reply
    • “The crux of the matter seems to be the difference of opinion on the legality of a vehicle and passenger ferry service operating town centre to town centre.”

      The tender for the current service, produced by Scottish Transport, allowed a vehicle service to be provided. A vehicle service has ALWAYS been legal. What you cannot do is cross subsidise.

      So lets get the improved boats in place for Easter, you don’t happen to have any to hand do you?

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      ferryman November 29, 2011 7:22 pm Reply
  • Actually B. Chennell – “however that should be weighed against the unsafe, unreliable service that currently exists, and could continue into the future” this actually is the crux of the matter.

    The boats are considered unsafe for the route, the service is unreliable and the SNP did not deliver on their promise.

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    Simon November 29, 2011 7:26 pm Reply
  • If the boats are unsafe why does the MCA allow them to sail with passengers?

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    James Walsh November 29, 2011 8:24 pm Reply
    • They (the current boats)are considered unsafe therefore do not sail on a regular basis, whereas the more suited larger vessels would be considered safe therefore will sail safely (in conditions not safe for the current boats)on a far greater frequency. That is important ot establish.
      IE
      BOAT 1 CANNOT SAIL IN WEATHER CONDITION XYZ
      BOAT 2 CAN SAIL IN WEATHER CONDITION XYZ

      Simple

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      phill November 29, 2011 9:11 pm Reply
    • The boats are not unsafe in terms of the certification, which is what the MCA will look at. Essentially these ensure that the vessel should be able to make it to port in adverse conditions and if the unthinkable happens there is enough safety equipment for those on board to survive long enough to have some chance of rescue.

      The further the vessel will venture from shore and the rougher the sea conditions it is likely to encounter the stiffer the regulation. Hence categories of waters and different classes of certification for vessels.

      This does not mean that vessels can safely operate reliable public ferry services. It means in weather for which the vessel is not suited it should have enough time to get to a safe port and stay there till the weather changes.

      The Captain or Master makes a decision on whether or not to sail and how much his boat and passengers can stand. Normally the general public don’t want to vomit, be scared out of their wits and thrown from their seats, though the boat might be able to take it.

      The larger the vessel the the smoother the ride. The vehicle ferries have over twice the length and twice the beam of the passenger boats and a great deal more tonnage – hence your granny can travel on them in a fairly rough sea without being thrown across the deck.

      If you scaled the passenger ferries up to the same size you would be talking about a passenger capacity of what 1,000-1,500? Which is what makes the larger passenger only idea so daft.

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      ferryman November 29, 2011 9:53 pm Reply
      • Ferryman: ‘If you scaled the passenger ferries up to the same size you would be talking about a passenger capacity of what 1,000 – 1,500? which is what makes the larger passenger ferry only idea so daft’
        Is this fact, or an assumption? There seem to be many places around the world – from Norwegian coastal towns to Auckland and Hongkong – where there are all sorts of passenger-only ferries, of all sorts of sizes, operating in all sorts of conditions. I’d want convincing that a boat had to be as big as you suggest to handle the Gourock-Dunoon route – and, if so, and it made sense to carry vehicles, how would you reconfigure the terminal at Gourock to provide convenient passenger transfer between boat and train?

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        Robert Wakeham November 29, 2011 10:26 pm Reply
        • Whenever you do a complex analysis you should do some simple checks to see if you really believe the answer.

          There is a Deloitte Touche report that does a complex analysis, it concludes that passenger only ferries are not viable.

          I have done my own simplistic health check on that conclusion and I reach the same result.

          I know the existing ferries are too small – they simply cannot run reliably in winter weather.

          I know the Western Ferries and the Streakers provide an acceptable, though not perfect, level of service.

          I know the existing ferries are not fully utilised, that they are subsidised and that that larger boats will incur even greater costs.

          Perhaps new boats don’t need to be quite as big as Western, but as a rule of thumb its good enough for me to conclude passenger only ferries
          on this route are a non-sense.

          You are actually quite divorced from the reality of the situation here at the moment. The reality is that there is essentially no usable service. Discussions about pontoons and passenger experience on the gangway are completely irrelevant if you cannot actually cross the Clyde.

          The real problem is getting new boats of ANY kind that can actually run.

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          ferryman November 30, 2011 7:50 pm Reply
          • Ferryman: I’m pretty sure that similar routes exist elsewhere in the world, served successfully by passenger ferries. Because I think that the vehicle ramp at Gourock is too far from the station, I don’t have complete confidence in the Deloitte Touche advice, because I don’t think they carried out ‘due diligence’ as well as they should have. If Network Rail, or a developer of the existing station site, were to finance a new station at the Calmac terminal then a vehicle ferry would be an option; otherwise, it isn’t. I can’t help thinking that the people arguing for a vehicle ferry don’t really care for the needs of the foot passenger, and in these circumstances I don’t think the financial argument alone justifies the need for vehicle carrying.

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            Robert Wakeham November 30, 2011 8:22 pm
  • I have noticed occasional comment regarding ‘the law’ and if income cross pollinates between a passenger and vehicle service, it’s against ‘the law’.

    In the name of the wee man, what stupid law is this and why is it treated seriously. A ‘law’ which places lives in danger is simply a wrong law. If the SNP Govt have been so short sighted as to introduce something like this ‘law’, why are the other political parties not raising a riot?

    Aside from the fact our elected representatives of all hues should be taking action NOW about the substandard vessels, so should they also be taking action about this foolish law.

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    Grant MacDonald November 29, 2011 9:59 pm Reply
  • Grant: The “Law” being referred to is EU competition Law – nothing to do with SG.

    I have checked with those who know these things and the commitment to provide a vehicle service for Dunoon was indeed a manifesto pledge of the SNP in 2007. What happened next was that an interested party complained to the EC that a subsidy from the SG to this service would breach EC competition law as there was an existing vehicle ferry service in operation (Western). The EC upheld the complaint and ruled that the SG could not subsidise a vehicle ferry service(though they could subsidise a passenger service). This was not what the SG wanted but they did not challenge the SC ruling. What was not debarred was an operator bidding for the route who would provide a vehicle service but with only the passenger service subsidised. There was no commercial interest in this proposal and so the current passenger only service was introduced.

    I don’t think these facts are in dispute. My understanding is that the pro vehicle ferry lobby believe that the short lifespan of the contract (6 years) deterred any would be operator from bidding despite their analysis (based on the Deloitte report) that suggests a vehicle service would not need a subsidy as it would be profitable.

    The SNP made a number of manifesto commitments in 2007 that they subsequently were not able to fulfil. However, in all of these cases it was because they could not rather than would not. Does anyone seriously believe that the SNP deliberately reneged on their manifesto commitment for these ferries just for the fun of it?

    This was Mr Russell’s point: the SNP Government tried to keep their promise on the ferries but were prevented from doing so. Some will argue that they didn’t try hard enough and people are entitled to their opinion. However, we are where we are. The real question is what can be done to improve the service? Here the secret to success will be to focus on a few achievable objectives and have as many people as possible sign up to them so that a coherent strategy and plan can be delivered. You might even get Newsroom to bat for it.

    On a lighter note: anyone who thinks that the Dunoon_Gourock ferry service is scary in winter should try the Aberdeen to Lerwick service in winter. Even the biggest of boats can be terrifying in heavy seas (and it is the only service I know where they issue everyone with sea sickness bags).

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    Dr Douglas McKenzie November 29, 2011 11:43 pm Reply
    • In the ‘good old days’ Western Ferries on the Kennacraig – Port Askaig run went one better than sick bags – the hot drinks machine that stood in for the ‘Sound Catering’ lady with her bacon rolls (and who had more sense than to be on the pre-dawn service in the winter) used to dispense a potent mixture of chicken soup and hot chocolate if the ship wasn’t on an even keel. I was never, ever, sick.

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      Robert Wakeham November 30, 2011 12:10 am Reply
    • Sorry why “could” they not fulfill the promise?
      The EU did not prevent them, they just said don’t cross subsidise.

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      ferryman November 30, 2011 7:55 pm Reply
      • I think the promise was for the SG to subsidise a vehicle ferry which the EC ruling prevented them doing. As I said, the tender invited operators to bid on either a passenger only or vehicle ferry but on the understanding that the subsidy would only apply to the passenger element.

        So the promise that they couldn’t fulfil related to the subsidy and not the service. That is my understanding.

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        Dr Douglas McKenzie November 30, 2011 8:33 pm Reply
        • You said “I have checked with those who know these things and the commitment to PROVIDE a vehicle service for Dunoon was indeed a manifesto pledge of the SNP in 2007.”

          Providing a service is not the same as subsidising it. Do you have a reference to the actual wording of the commitment?

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          ferryman November 30, 2011 8:52 pm Reply
          • I’m afraid not – it is not in the actual 2007 national manifesto but I am assured (from within the SNP) that it was a manifesto commitment.

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            Dr Douglas McKenzie November 30, 2011 10:03 pm
  • Looking slightly further afield from Cowal, there is perhaps a situation developing that might have had an historical precedent. In 1972 the then Caledonian Steam Packet began a short crossing car ferry service from Largs to Cumbrae, enabling vehicle owners to access the island (or escape from it, depending upon your point of view) at convenient regular intervals. Previously, the car ferry service had run from Wemyss Bay to Millport, and operated three or four times a day.

    Coincidentally, about the same time, Western Ferries announced their high-frequency service between Cowal and Cloch Point, in repsonse to which the CSP upped their stakes on the Dunoon route by announcing new ferries (initially the Glen Sannox and Maid of Cumbrae, replaced by the Jupiter and Juno). Meanwhile, at Millport, the existing passenger only boat, the little Keppel, was eventually reduced to a summertime service with no winter sailings direct into Millport from Largs. Why? Because the majority of people were quite happy with the ‘out-of-town’ service as it ran far more often. Either that, or, because it was forced upon them, they had no choice in the matter. Regardless, what happened was that the passenger-only service finally shut down and Cumbraeans had to make their way, by car or bus, to Cumbrae Slip and travel on a car ferry. (These early boats were pretty primative, worse than Western Ferries ones!)

    Is there a parallel being drawn at Dunoon? In the years leading up to the final sailing of a car ferry back in June, vehicle traffic had already deserted CalMac, not so much here out of necessity but out of choice, leaving a meagre passenger ferry to continue after its withdrawal.

    How long will it last? Or perhaps we should be asking, how long is it needed?

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    Jim Williamson November 30, 2011 5:02 pm Reply
    • Jim: ‘Ferryman’, in response to comment 16, reports that passenger numbers have been greater than expected, and this suggests to me that ‘all is not lost’. Surely a critical difference between Cowal and Cumbrae is that the current ‘out of town’ service to Cumbrae still links with Glasgow via the train at Largs, whereas Western Ferries doesn’t link with Gourock station.

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      Robert Wakeham November 30, 2011 5:33 pm Reply
      • Robert: A prefectly valid point indeed, but of those travelling with Argyll Ferries, how many use their own transport? Are the figures for those travelling by train known?

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        Jim Williamson November 30, 2011 5:42 pm Reply
        • As a fairly frequent passenger, I would estimate the majority of folk go for the train (or up to Inverclyde Hospital). The increased frequency of service – when it started – meant one did not have to plan every detail of the trip.

          Now, that has fallen apart. The toy ferries mean when I attend the cardiac unit this Friday, I will need to drive and use Western as I cannot rely on the joke service. And literally if the water is rough, for me personally there is an added unpleasant potential.

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          Grant MacDonald November 30, 2011 5:55 pm Reply
  • Wed 30/Nov about 12:00 Service Cancelled until further notice – says it all. Western of course continued to run.

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    ferryman November 30, 2011 8:02 pm Reply
  • One point that has not been mentioned here – is there a possibility that the government are not allowed to spend public £millions on building ferries that carry cars for a route that can only be subsidised for passengers?

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    DunoonLad November 30, 2011 9:29 pm Reply
    • they are allowed.

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      Lorna Ahlquist November 30, 2011 11:18 pm Reply
    • Yes, it’s allowed. But one condition. The boats would need to be leased out to any operator, not just CalMac, or if it was to them, they’d have to pay the proper charter rate. The Jupiter was leased to CalMac for, wait for it, £100 a day! The proper charter rate in the commercial market would be something like ten times that per hour! So yes, boats could have been built, but fares would be hiked up so much to pay for them that passengers would have to pay something like five times what they currently do. That would keep the punters happy, eh?

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      Jim Williamson December 1, 2011 3:52 pm Reply
  • Was talking to someone who was watching the bath boats on the river to-day. Said it was like a fairground big dipper thrusting up and down into the sea. No doubt there would have been some very ill passengers!

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    DunoonLad November 30, 2011 9:33 pm Reply
    • At the meeting on 24/Nov a lot of adults in the hall put their hands up to say they had felt sick on the boat. I have heard an adult complaining of feeling unwell getting off the boat, and I am fairly sure a mother wrote to the local paper saying her children had actually been sick.

      There were sizeable numbers of people putting their hands up to say that they personally had experienced the various negative aspect of the service. To his credit Mike Russell also put his hand up on one point.

      I do sympathise with him to some extent that the problem is not of his making, but he needs to show his metal and leadership now and get a satisfactory result. The tenor of his response in hall was verging on saying he was powerless.

      SG also need to recognise that things have gone badly wrong and they need to act decisively to rectify the situation.

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      ferryman November 30, 2011 10:56 pm Reply
  • For Robert Wakeham:
    “If Network Rail, or a developer of the existing station site, were to finance a new station at the Calmac terminal then a vehicle ferry would be an option; otherwise, it isn’t.”

    There has been a vehicle ferry using the existing vehicle ramp for years. The SNP made a Manifesto commitment to provide a vehicle ferry. The people of Dunoon have made it very clear they want a vehicle ferry. However since you think the ramp is too far way lets just have a big passenger ferry instead so how are you going to get it?

    I am a foot passenger now, all I want is a service that actually runs. What is the next step?

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    ferryman November 30, 2011 11:45 pm Reply
  • Since there has been some talk about “Laws”: What are the rules/regulations/laws that apply for accountability in spending public funds.

    Can the public claim compensation for the negligent way this service has been introduced?

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    ferryman November 30, 2011 11:59 pm Reply
  • Ferryman: The next step is to do the physical feasibility and the financial arithmetic: A) between a passenger ferry at the existing station or a passenger/vehicle ferry at the existing ramp at Gourock, with the station relocated alongside and the redevelopment value of the existing station site recovered, and B) on whatever Dunoon terminal improvements are required to suit the best option, and optimise the passenger facilities there.
    I do think that the fact that a vehicle ferry has been using the existing vehicle ramp at Gourock for years is no excuse for accepting the disfunctional link between trains and boats for foot passengers; you seem to think that this is just my opinion but – as you’re a foot passenger yourself – you must be aware that the current set-up is very poor, and it’s obviously has been ever since the vehicle ramp was first established. As there’s already very good vehicle ferry service I really don’t think that the re-establishment of another vehicle service is a factor unless it is a fact that it is necessary to ensure the boats are fit for purpose (which I suspect can be disproved by current practice elsewhere) and unless the vehicle ferry option justifies whatever the cost of relocating the station. For all I know the value of the land released could cover this cost, and maybe more. Whether the passenger or vehicle ferry option wins the day there’ll be ‘experts’ screaming ‘can’t be done’, and they might be the biggest challenge of the lot, together with a host of people who might be far more interested in endless party political backbiting, point-scoring and spoiling tactics than in actually getting the job done.

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    Robert Wakeham December 1, 2011 12:24 am Reply
    • Let’s face it, the current political thinking is to deter people from using their cars at any cost. There’s no way that a car ferry service will be reinstated using public money.

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      Jim Williamson December 1, 2011 10:33 pm Reply
  • I think it would be advantageous to everybody if the people behind VISIT COWAL publications were consulted. On their website, if you download the Cowal Touring Map you will see that there is a ferry from Dunoon to GREENOCK bypassing Gourock. Passengers could be unloaded at Greenock waterfront beside all the large stores, Morrisons, Tesco, Lidl, Halfords, etc. Dunoon could then close. The map that Visit Cowal distributed LAST year had a drawing with ‘footsteps’ from Dunoon to Gourock, indicating a foot passenger only ferry. This was long before any decision had been made regarding the type of ferry to be used on the service. It’s obvious that Visit Cowal can see into the future so let’s ask their opinion.
    I can vaguely recall, years ago, seeing a drawing of plans for Gourock including a new road allowing the present congested main street to be one way. The plan included the pier area, station and Calmac offices, marshalling area and car parks becoming……luxury appartments. Gourock Station would close with Fort Matilda and Greenock West with all trains leaving from Greenock Central.(near to where the Dunoon ferry will dock !) This would allow the railways to abandon the expensive to maintain tunnels between Fort Matilda and Gk Central. Job done.

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    george December 1, 2011 2:01 pm Reply
  • I hate to say this, but having read all the various comments here and elsewhere, the possibility of ever getting a vehicle and passenger service between the town centres is never going to happen. The £millions required are never going to be made available to a relevantly small community, especially when a private company are more than willing to provide a more than adequate service, and new ships for absolutely no cost to the government or taxpayer.

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    DunoonLad December 1, 2011 7:23 pm Reply
  • What most people are most comfortable travelling on is proper ferries -SHIPS – not boats , ships that they can walk about in and have the pleasure of their crossings. SHIPS – that can take more than 3 feet of waves without having to stop the service and disappointing passengers , who have no choice but use them to get to the train. I have an app for my android phone and over the past 3 months of so , the app has being showing quite a lot of orange and reds , for one simple reason , the boats are inadequate for the service – town centre to town centre , in rough (ish) water. It is ironic that the Linkspan , built for a car ferry , is now being utilised by passenger-only boats. I will be voting against the SNP in the forthcoming referendum on ‘independence’. If Mr Salmond and his cohorts will run the country as they did with the Dunoon Car Ferry debacle…then absolutely NO!!

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    Dave Forbes January 30, 2012 12:54 pm Reply
    • Dave Forbes – going by past history you might decide not to vote at all, as no one political party seems to have covered themselves with glory organising Clyde ferrie. Not voting for someone isn’t going to solve the problem, which is surely a bit wider than just the effectiveness of Dunoon – Gourock connections?

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      Robert Wakeham January 30, 2012 2:39 pm Reply

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