Herald promotes SPT Daytripper journey via Helensburgh ferry?

In a classic example of what happens if you farm copy off the shelf without checking the validity of its currency, Saturday’s Herald magazine carried a feature by Charles Fletcher, Twenty’s Plenty, that can only pick the scab off Helensburgh’s recent sores.

The article  – a great idea – focuses on how the SPT £20 Daytripper ticket can be used, with good advance planning on the routes and timetables, to deliver a rich and varied day out, getting you to places and by means not immediately obvious.

The writer homed in, as we had done last year, on the untrumpeted Kilcreggan ferry, which is within  SPT’s portfolio – and like us, was drawn to the full diet of the Helensburgh leg.

This has not existed since 1st April 2012.

Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) changed both the service and the contractor for the former ferry between Kilcreggan and Gourock – which also linked to and from Helensburgh.

Without consultation or warning, SPT axed the Helensburgh leg, which had never been marketed. As we had shown when we reported on the experience of the route in early September 2011, this was a wonderfully scenic route providing a useful link between Helensburg and the southern tip of the Rosneath peninsula – and on to Gourock on the east Clyde, with its railhead access to Glasgow.

Mr Fletcher starts from Gourock and says the Seabus: ‘must be the happiest of transports. People get off with a smile, people step on with a smile and it remains thus…’. He describes the route, with the views south to the Cloch Light, west to the Holy Loch and east to the Erskine Bridge. He is enchanted by Kilcreggan – and who could not be. He takes tie out there, love the ambiance and enjoys the food at the lovely little cafe across the road from what must be the most picturesque pier in Scotland.

He boards Seabus again and sets off for Helenburgh, finds ‘Codona’s fair in full belt on the waterfront’, reminds himself – and us – that Helensburgh is as much the home of macaroon ice cream as it is of John Logie Baird. He has coffee in the Commodore, is assumed to be ‘the polis’ because of his shiny shoes and, on his way to the station at Helensburgh Central, notes the enticement of an establishment offering ‘a Turkish haircut’. (We need to know more.)

Then he takes the train back to Glasgow.

What he did not know then and The Herald does not know yet, is that the opportunity he speaks of gone.

From 1st April 2012 the Helensburgh part of the route ceased, leaving a a new contractor to run the route only between Kilcreggan and Gourock.

This has been a noisy controversy for many reasons and it is hard luck for the editorial team of The Herald that the feature promises readers a travel opportunity that cannot now wholly be delivered.

What this does do, though, is deliver evidence of the essential attractiveness and utility of a route that had all the capacity to grow, had it been marketed. This has been a failure of competence, business nous and imagination by SPT’s management. It has left a town in need of every resource it has – bereft of one that added significantly to its connections and its repertoire for visitors and residents alike.

This ferry route was such an appropriate resource for a gracious waterfront town.

So we salute Charles Fletcher’s response to the delights of this experience and mourn the fact that what he tried to do for it came  too late.

But the ferry route form Gourock to Kilcreggan and back is still accessible to the SPT Daytripper ticket, those views are still as lovely and Kilcreggan always was the star of the show.

But Helensburgh, while it was connected to it, not only had a reach out to Inverclyde, it benefited from the stardust of Kilcreggan.

The possibility was also there that, if its inclusion on the timetable continued and was actually marketed – a novel notion, Helensburgh itself, in its intent to regenerate, would have had a lot to offer to visitors from the seaways and would have stepped up in spirits with the sheer jollity of the route.

All gone.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • I picked up a ferry and bus timetable last week in Gourock and the Helensburgh ferry is still on it!! How many screwed up tourists will there be this summer!

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    susie will May 7, 2012 11:53 am Reply
    • SPT cannot excuse themselves on this.
      They knew well before anyone else that Seabus was going and the route was to change.
      Clydelink have had new brochures available from day one.
      This shows SPT’s absolute disengagement from the nature of the services they run – which explains the unthinking ease with which they failed to market the Seabus service and disconnected Helensburgh in the new contract.

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      newsroom May 7, 2012 12:54 pm Reply
      • It’s as if SPT’s concept of an integrated public transport system doesn’t extend beyond buses and trains, and it beggars belief; they should be sent on a study tour (of the genuine – rather than junket – variety) of Scandinavia at their own expense, to find out how to do it.

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        Robert Wakeham May 7, 2012 2:17 pm Reply
  • Gosh, spotted only 48 hours after it appeared! Those in glass houses… cast your mind back to a headline on this site: “400 Rosneath residents protest in person on Kilcreggan Pier on SPT ferry plans”. Not the case at all, quite apart from the issue of whether it is possible to protest ‘on’ something. Some of the people protesting were from Rosneath, but most were not. A classic case of what happens if you take a headline off the shelf without knowing the area or bothering to check.

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    News and Opinion are not the same thing May 7, 2012 2:05 pm Reply
    • Sorry – spotted on the day but, with the electoral convulsion in Argyll and Bute there were priorities.
      This was information we were given from local sources and are unaware of anyone else going around asking everyone present where they were from.
      Our point in this article is – obviously – principally that the route was an attractive asset that has been wilfully discarded by SPT.

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      newsroom May 7, 2012 2:18 pm Reply
    • So what – you think those people had no right to protest? you think that the ferry service is fine? are you rooting for SPT? – is it a case of ‘don’t rock the boat boys, remember where your money comes from? just what sort of blinkers are you wearing, and who put them there? Compared with the misinformation in the timetables, and the misinformed piece in the Herald, this is nothing.

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      Robert Wakeham May 7, 2012 2:22 pm Reply
  • Helensburgh & Lomond Real Ale Festival organised by the Round Table is advertising on its leaflets that to get there, you can go “by Ferry: Passenger ferry from Gourock via Kilcreggan”

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    quasijock May 7, 2012 2:19 pm Reply
  • Dear dear… just because I point out an error, Mr Wakeham, I must be a member of the forces of evil. I’m not. I’m one of the people who use this ferry service, are furious with SPT and baffled by some of the apparent support for Clydelink which has appeared on this site. And I was on the pier that day.
    Rather than picking holes in other people’s stories, perhaps the ‘newsrooom’ could do something such as work out the percentage of scheduled journeys since April 1 which have not taken place under the terms of the contract – a 60-seater vessel. So the current 12-seat joke should be ignored, as should the buses, the journeys cancelled because of weather (in April), breakdowns/boat reliability (two separate occasions, including the current one) and the MCA’s instruction that it should not sail for safety reasons. Try working out that little sum, and the facts will tell the story.
    The headline, by the way, was in error because ‘Rosneath residents’ means people who live in that village, not the peninsula of the same name.
    Oh, and try searching on Youtube for Island Princess and Gourock.

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    News and Opinion are not the same thing May 7, 2012 2:40 pm Reply
    • So it’s a wonder to me why I haven’t seen you raise these major issues already, rather than saving your comments for what’s really nothing more than a bit of nitpicking – accuracy is important, but getting to the stage of distinguishing between residents of Rosneath and residents of the Rosneath peninsula, in this context, is surely getting a bit anal? Don’t you need to concentrate your energies on the real point, the way in which what should be several passenger ferry links on this part of the Clyde have been comprehensively mismanaged by SPT?

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      Robert Wakeham May 7, 2012 3:10 pm Reply
      • I don’t live on the peninsular and used it occasionally to go from Gourock to Dumbarton via Helensburgh. What is being reported is the ferry crossing and time tabling are now just a shambles – an infrequent and unreliable service. There is no good to be done by bitching between us. There needs to be a concerted effort to assist those who can make a difference and have the ability to persuade those in power to improve this ferry service for the good of us all, and particularly for the core users. I have written to the Transport Minister – reporting on the number of missed timetables and substitute buses. It will take more than just one voice to make a difference. so if everyone could just email the Minister then at least we get it on his agenda.
        Ps the bus leaves from Gourock at 0645hrs tomorrow, Wednesday 9 May the ferry leaves at 0700hrs http://www.kilcregganferry.com – talk about the cart before the horse

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        Hamish Beaton May 8, 2012 8:58 pm Reply
  • Could it be that SPT has been corrupted by a hostile alien force to cause maximum damage to the economic and social well being of the communities around the shores of the Clyde, under the nose of a supine national government?

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    Robert Wakeham May 8, 2012 9:45 pm Reply
  • Nobody seems to be bothered about The Herald running a story that must be at least six months old without taking the time to check that it is still valid, it is by no means a case of ‘hard luck’ on the part of the paper. The ‘fun fair’ could only ever be in ‘full belt’ during the summer (although I can’t recall when I last observed it coming close to fitting that description) and disappears completely for the winter period. They, like some others, have simply assumed the link still remains, the current Cal Mac online timetables still list the old service with a ‘subject to change’ stamp on them. It only takes a quick visit to travelinescotland.com to confirm what the current arrangements are, which would be prudent advice for anyone planning such a journey.
    There are a couple of other points overlooked here, one is there is still a very effective public transport link between Kilcreggan and Helensburgh which operates for moat of the day with only a small proportion receiving any subsidy and the second is the lack of support for the day tripper ticket in some areas, i.e. although you can get to Gourock by train your only option from there is the Kilcreggan Ferry as it’s not valid on the local buses.
    On the subject of marketing try searching SPT minutes, there is a little more there than conjecture.

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    awsnews May 9, 2012 9:01 am Reply
  • having to get the train to gourock from alexandria does make a change that I see dumbarton rock from the other side of the water.their has to be a triangle of service me thinks and should be brought back.please…

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    thomas July 2, 2012 2:51 am Reply

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