Did Western not accept the Rover tickets for …

Comment posted Russell stance on Argyll Ferries raises serious questions by DunoonLad.

Did Western not accept the Rover tickets for a period? Surely some agreement could be put in place to include Western’s Dunoon service in the scheme?

DunoonLad also commented

  • @Dave MH – yes, what you want WOULD have been the popular choice. The present situation is completly different. A private operator will have been on the route for 40 years in 2013! The rules have had to be changed because of this, and European Regulation. Time to wake up and realise it is now 2012. Yes, the passenger service needs sorted, but probably not by a new vehicular service. Cal-Mac probably added to this situation by the way they ran the service e.g. Ticket restrictions, staff attitude, account keeping etc. Better boats, better passenger shore facilities including means of boarding, especially the distance to walk at Gourock. How this service can be in a modern Scotland is totally unacceptable. And remember, by this time next year, Western should be operating their two new ferries, which should resolve any capacity issues.
  • A vehicle service from Dunoon to Gourock is now a dead duck!

Recent comments by DunoonLad

  • Could Dunoon benefit from 4 month works at Wemyss Bay harbour?
    Then there is the proposed ferry service from Toward to Port Bannatyne, which would be an easier journey to Bute. The road from Toward school to Castle Toward is in need of some widening etc, to be able to cope with more traffic. Saying that, it isn’t a very long stretch, and should be improved anyway. The proposed developments at Castle Toward would also tie in with a new ferry route there, and would no doubt stimulate Bute as well. I believe the commuter traffic between Bute and Cowal is a busy one with teachers. Council workers etc.
  • Could Dunoon benefit from 4 month works at Wemyss Bay harbour?
    Good idea, apart from the further 40 minute drive from Hunter’s Quay to Colintraive! would this not negate any time savings by using this route?
  • Situation analysis 1: Scotland now – the SNP predicament
    Just to let you all know that the Yes movement in Dunoon, as well as throughout Scotland will continue, and the current First Minister has something up his sleeve, as disclosed on a recent STV interview.
  • Major CMAL upgrade to Wemyss Bay harbour will see CalMac ferry to Bute on short term move to Gourock
    Sorry Robert, I had written and posted this prior to seeing your identical thoughts on this. Regular users should demand that the users group intervene before this idiotic plan is implemented. As you state, a proper facility is required, and should be able to accommodate at least two passenger ferries at the one time.
  • Major CMAL upgrade to Wemyss Bay harbour will see CalMac ferry to Bute on short term move to Gourock
    Am I totally missing something important here? Installing new “steps” closer to the existing linkspan! Surely this should read ” installing new access ramps suitable for all users, and wheelchairs, push chairs, bikes etc, closer to the rail station, bus stops, taxi rank, and exit, to enable all passengers to enjoy a more joined up transport hub” . Couldn’t organise a booze up etc….

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94 Responses to Did Western not accept the Rover tickets for …

  1. Once again a total lack of understanding and research from newsroom (aka soapbox) who wrote;

    “That lack of the exemption certificate is no more than an administrative oversight. There has never been any question that the MCA will not award the certificate when Argyll Ferries applies for it.

    The MCA has never said the Ali Cat must have a safety boat. It has said that she does not have a certificate exempting her from carrying one.”

    The Ali Cat has an Exemption Certificate dated 21/July/2011, copies were given out at a public meeting several months ago.

    The MCA found that boat-masters operating the Ali Cat were unaware of the restrictions imposed upon her in the certificate. That is a very serious situation for a company of the standing and reputation of CalMac who own Argyll Ferries.

    Newsroom writes an inaccurate article riddled with errors then writes a second article refering to the first as it it were gospel – neat trick but very misleading.

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    • For ferryman: CALMAC DO NOT OWN ARGYLL FERRIES. Please read all of newsroom’s original article and all related prior material.

      For newsroom: yes, “mischievous” is the word I would have chosen.

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      • For ferryman: CALMAC DO NOT OWN ARGYLL FERRIES. Please read all of newsroom’s original article and all related prior material.

        Yes, it is human to err. However the weight of newsroom’s articles and arguements are not diminished by this. Unless you are saying that we should totally discount your arguement for making an error.

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      • Newsroom states that the AliCat does not have an Exemption Certificate – she does and since the whole safety debate centres around the exemption certificate newsroom’s article is clearly flawed.

        As to your point about CalMac; When people refer to CalMac they mean the CalMac group, that is the brand. That is exactly the way the EU used the term, they did not bother to differentiate the different parts.

        It is correct that Argyll Ferries Ltd. and Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd. are sister companies but safety is a CalMac group function covering both subsidiaries.

        David MacBrayne Ltd owns the bathtubs, which is a bit unusual since Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd.(CMAL) usually owns the vessels.

        Argyll Ferries Ltd is little more than a shell with no assets and probably only the staff who work on the boats as employees.

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        • The push behind the article is more that the Minster is at odds with his government. One says that Argyll Ferries is delivering the service as per contract the other is saying that passenger safety has regularly been put at risk.

          Both can’t be right unless of course there is a section of the contract which states that passenger safety should be put at risk. Perhpas you can provide an answer to that?

          What is more, given the Minister’s unique position as owner, tenderer and funder it would seem to be ridiculous that he is also such a critic and more so to use an alleged lack of safety awareness as his weapon of choice.

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          • Just for information Caledonian MacBrayne Limited which newsroom described as “the long established ferry operator” appears to be a dormant company incorporated in 2006. I’ll stick with the common usage of CalMac to mean the whole group.

            Regarding the Minister being at odds with the government it does not seem to me that he is. The question that was asked of the Government appeared to be related mainly to reliability and, unfortunately, the Transport Scotland contract neglects all failures to sail due to the weather from reliability figures so the current service performs well to the lamentable contract. Our MSP on the other hand has been flagging up that Argyll Ferries have been ignorant of conditions they should be operating to. Two quite different things.

            Ministers rely on Civil Servants. The Civil Servants botched the contract. Perhaps not surprisingly the Civil Servants have probably not been flagging up to Ministers that to keep the service running at all rules have been bent. That has been left to a Whistleblower and our MSP.

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        • We do NOT say that the Ali Cat DOES NOT have an exemption certificate, We repeat the admitted situation that for a time she DID NOT have one.

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          • You, newsroom, wrote;

            “The facts are very different.

            That lack of the exemption certificate IS no more than an administrative oversight. There has never been any question that the MCA WILL not award the certificate WHEN Argyll Ferries applies for it.

            The MCA has never said the Ali Cat must have a safety boat. It has said that she DOES NOT HAVE a certificate exempting her from carrying one.”

            To me your article is saying she does not have a certificate.

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  2. I have rarely read such utter rubbish as the initial parts of this piece. Nobody is calling for a vehicle carrying subsidy. There is no attempt to justify a vehicle carrying subsidy. There never has been a subsidy on the vehicle carrying service. There is no need to subsidise a vehicle carrying service which was operating perfectly well without one despite the completely artificial restriction on its sailings which destroyed its figures.
    You obviously still do not understand the issue.
    The present passenger only service requires a massive subsidy.
    The reason given for the introduction of Western Ferries on this route all those years ago was the need for a second competing server due to volume of traffic on the route. There has been a 600% increase in volume of traffic on this crossing since that point.

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    • DMH – your description of the arrival of Western Ferries on the scene deserves clarification; WF saw a great opportunity – of meeting a vehicle demand that the publicly owned ferry service couldn’t cope with – a repeat of what had happened previously on the Islay service.
      The reasons for the failure of the established ferry services is another story, but whereas on the Islay route the government belatedly got their act together and used public funds to drive out WF, on the Dunoon – Gourock route they were prevented from behaving in that way.
      We’re going over old ground here, but your comment that ‘there is no need to subsidise a vehicle carrying service which was operating perfectly well without one..’ fails to recognise that – for foot passengers – the service left a lot to be desired. If you can suggest how a vehicle ferry can provide the quality of passenger service that requires easy access on and off the ferry, and easy access to the train at Gourock, please do. And before ‘ferryman’ rattles his cage, no I’m not suggesting that the current Argyll Ferries service is ok.

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      • The streaker service was not allowed to cope with vehicle service demand because it was shackled by an enforced restricted timetable and ridiculous ticketing arrangements.

        “If you can suggest how a vehicle ferry can provide the quality of passenger service that requires easy access on and off the ferry, and easy access to the train at Gourock, please do.” My main concern is to have ships that can cross the Firth of Clyde reliably. There were no significant complaints about getting on/off the streaker service and the boarding arrangements were much better than they are now.

        So lets go back to having large, reliable vehicle and passenger ferries rather than throwing good money after bad by trying to patch up a failed passenger only service with pontoons.

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        • There you go again, ferryman – dodging the question, demanding a return to the ‘old order’ when it’s just not feasible, and denying the possibility that new ideas are required.

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          • I think the current fiasco amply proves that larger vessels are needed to cope with the weather.

            If you want to make those passenger only fine, they will not use or need pontoons and they will cost a fortune – go for it.

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    • The present annual subsidy for the passenger service is £1.75m it was £3.2m when Cowal Ferries delivered the passenger service. Therefore the current passenger service which has delivered a doubling of the frequency has saved the taxpayer £1.45m.

      Therefore the removal of the vehicle service has a saved a massive amount of money. Any return of a vehicle service would increase the subsidy level.

      On this analysis you don’t understand the issue.

      This is the real problem currently facing the current campaign to see a return of a vehicle service. Any increase on the current subsidy level associated with a reintroduction of a vehicle service will subsidising the vehicle service.

      The politicians know this. They simply are being honest with those that they purport to be supporting.

      With regards the increase in volume over time, CalMac were carrying fewer and fewer cars on an annual basis. Had the vehicle service been continued the costs of providing the vehicle service would be exceeding the revenue.

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      • If we assume your figures are correct they could have saved £3.2M simply by shutting the service down completely. Locally there is a widespread view that that is the ultiomate aim and that the current service was designed to fail. Hence our MSP running around saying “use it or lose it” from day one to cover himself against the anticipated failure.

        Nobody who had ever used the AliCat regularly in winter was in any doubt it could not operate a frequent service reliably.

        The question is what is the cost of a reliable passenger only service.

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  3. WF

    Western Ferries were introduced to the route as Mrs Thatcher’s government with its obsession on private operation tried to take the Calmac service off. This was resisted furiously by the people of Dunoon at huge public meetings and George Younger had to back down and reprieve the CalMac service. It would be useful if people commenting on this issue knew the background.
    A survey posted into all the homes in Cowal elicited a response of over 2,500. 98% wanted the Calmac Service to continue and the vast majority (over 90%)also agreed that if the CalMac vehicle service was running unrestricted it
    would be their transport of choice.
    I have no intention of engaging in a debate on this. The issue has moved on.
    Captain Sandy Ferguson, CalMac’s retired long serving chief marine superintendant has testified that the two tubs on the route at the moment are entirely unsuitable and he would not have allowed them to operate had he still been in position.
    For Argyll of course,knows better

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    • Western’s service was introduced in 1973 well before Mrs T’s government. I am not aware of the events that surrounded George Younger but where they failed the SNP were ultimately very successful.

      Also remember that the SNP we’re the ones who thought that the boats were entirely suitable and gave the contract to Argyll.

      It would be useful if people commenting on the issue knew the background.

      It’s a shame you have no intention of engaging in a debate,

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      • It is correct that the SNP went back on their manifesto promise of 2 vehicle ferries for the route. a change of position which they have never explained.

        It is also correct they then went on to introduce a totally inadequate passenger only service.

        Time will tell if they will rectify their errors.

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        • That’s now over 5 years since Jim Mather made the promise how much longer are you going to wait. the next tender is not until 2016?

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          • It is not going to be quick. However you either accept that in 2016 there will be no town centre ferry service or you fight.

            Fighting means pressuring our MSP to do something about the situation.

            The current contract can either be broken (safety issues would do it) or terminated. However it will take time for ships to be ordered and built and the government needs to do it.

            A small price for service across the Firth of Clyde compared with the billions for a free to use crossing of the Firth of Forth.

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  4. I have never read such fiction and rubbish in all my life by newsroom who is completely ignorant of the facts particularly regarding exemption certificates and enoprcement notices and it seems nearly everything else. I will not go into other matters such as what or what not Europe allows us to do but will leave that to someone more qualified than me and obviously you. All I would say on that subject is that we should do what every other European country does and bend European stupid regulations.The Enforcement notice issued to David MacBrayne is the first the MCA has had to issue to the Company in its long hitherto proud history and is a binding legal document. The Constituent who advised Michael Russell has a long and distinguished seagoing career which includes having commanded the first proper ro ro ferry in the West Coast of Scotland with Western Ferries ARGYLL Ltd and after five years with them spent 17 years Master of every major Calmac Western Isles ferry and service followed by 9 years Marine Superintendent so you can be assured that everything Mr Russell has been advised about regarding Exemption Certificates, Enforcement notices and safety are founded on experience and fact unlike the fiction contained in your article. If you want any credibility try printing the truth in future but then that wouldn’t be sensationalist enough to attrct readers.

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    • No one has questioned Sandy’s CV, however there is still a difference between what Mike Ruseell has been saying about regularly placing passenger safety at risk and the service operating in line with the contract.

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      • Not really. The questions raised thus far about the contract were in relation to reliability and it is operating reliably according to the daft contract.

        However it could be that Mike Russell is raising these matters with a view to them being used as grounds for breach of contract. I am sure the Government would like a way out of the contract to be available to them.

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        • It’s going to be hard to allege a breach of contract if Kieth brown has come out and stated in a response to parliament that the service is being delivered to contract. If that was his thinking then the parky has just taken away his ball.

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          • When did Keith Brown make his statement and when did the MCA issue their enforcement action? Unless he answered after the MCA acted he could not have known.

            Even if it was after the question was in the context of reliability not safety.

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  5. Not really true Peter.
    My argument and my advice to Mr Russell is that AF are already allowed to sail in moderate rolling and or pitching. The nexct designation up for a light aluminium vessel is Rolling and pitching violently. With what is allowed at the moment any Mum with a baby in a pram and a toddler must have great difficulty holding on to both to save them being thrown about, what would it be like in the next stage up. Someone said I called the Ali Cat a death trap, this is totally untrue. Unless she had a collision in fog I do not think weather in the Clyde would cause the loss of the Ali Cat my safety concerns are and always have been considering that as well as said above she carries infirm, elderly and disabled passengers as well as some rather the worse for drink who all can easily be thrown about and badly injured.

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    • Okay, but rolling and pitching violently, surely the Ali Cat or any other vessel would not be sailing in those conditions with or without a rescue vessel or an MCA exemption to carry one.

      Also if the weather was that bad and the Ali Cat set out, would the captain not advise that the crossing might be rough and fthat passengers are advised to remain seated during the crossing. I have heard similar announcements on other crossings.

      I feel that you are missing the point, if Kieth Brown says that the service is operating as per contract how can this be if passenger safety is being put at risk. Also if safety was being regularly put hat risk why has the Ali Cat been allowed to stay on the route for almost 10 years. Also why if she was so bad was she used for Argyll’s bid and why did the Scottish Goverment give the contract to them?

      Something is wrong here and I feel that the balance points to the fact that Argyll, the MCA and the Scottish Goverment are content for the Ali Cat to stay on service. That is even before the competition issues.

      The local campaigners don’t like the vessel or the Flyer as they are passenger only ferries and this issue is being over played to suit their purposes. Much like the disdain for the pontoons, despite the fact that the will improve dockings.

      I guess like everyone, we all await a conclusion. I just feel lthat promises are cheap when they come from politicians. The reason for stating this is that promises have been made before and broken, especially from jim Mather. Do you not think that if he and others could have found another solution to the current service, then one would have been found.

      Also if you have advised mike Russell does that make you Captain Sandy.

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      • The classification for pitching and rolling is settled, moderate, rough and violent.

        Captain Ferguson has said he was onboard the Ali Cat while she was pitching violently. I have been onboard her in similar conditions, you don’t have much choice about sitting down and you need to hold on to your seat.

        The Ali Cat has been on the route for a number of years. However she ran a very limited timetable and it did not matter a lot if she was off as there was a following streaker that would be running. Also she was banned from operating in waves in excess of 0.5m (up to my knees) by Argyll and Bute Council following an incident where people claimed to have been nearly killed.

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        • To answer your previous point the article states that the question was answered on the 19th July. According to michael Russell he was informed by captain sandy last year and the MCA notice was also before this answer. Just before you come back and blame the officials, I believe that I read somewhere that the same officials who would have answered this question were at a meeting between the MCA and Argyll.

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          • You seem to be right on the dates, the MCA enforcement notice was served on the CalMac subsidiary Argyll Ferries on or before 10/July.

            Wasn’t it Keith Brown who answered a question, and was the question not in the context of reliability?

            You are right I do blame the officials they crafted the contract and they have a vested interest in covering up the failings of the service and that achieving even the present abysmal service is being done only by bending or ignoring the rules.

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  6. Newsroom, you were not being “mischievous” were you when you wrote; “It also showed that, were RET to be introduced despite this, some key fares (regular car and driver journeys) would actually cost more – up to 34% in this instance – under RET than under the discounts currently available but not permissible under RET.”

    My book of 10 Western Ferries car and driver tickets cost me £73. If I am generous it is 3 miles between Hunter’s Quay and McInroy’s point. So for my £73 I get to travel 30 miles. My car does more than 60 miles to the gallon, but lets just call it 60. The AA report that diesel was at a low of 136.12p/l recently, that low is an eye watering £6.19/gallon. But I get 60 miles per gallon so to drive 30 miles costs me £3.10 for fuel.

    Silly me but it seems like its over 22 times more expensive to go on Western Ferries, using the cheapest tickets, than on the road. I don’t know much about RET so I am happy to be corrected. How did you arrive at your figures?

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  7. Really, obviously the fixed element must be designed to compensate for longer ferry crossings.

    However I have never argued for RET just for competition.
    If there is competition and it costs me £7.30 to cross the Firth of Clyde I’ll not grumble. But if I see billions being spent on free crossings of the Firth of Forth and not even competition here that is a different matter.

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  8. Hang on, I have been looking up RET and found this;
    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/935/0061364.pdf

    It seems the way RET is applied it only reduces never increases fares – is that correct?

    It appear when the above document was produced in 2008 that on Dunoon Gourock passenger fares would fall by 15% car fares would be unchanged and commercial vehicle costs would fall by a whopping 60%. It seems a commercial vehicle crossing was costing £81 and it would fall to £32.

    Obviously this is out of date, but if commercial crossings are costing roughly £81 that needs to be of concern to everybody in Cowal as it goes straight onto costs for all goods and services in the area. Compare that with the Firth of Forth – free.

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    • RET is not going to apply to commercials when it gets extended to Islay etc this winter and is being phased out on the Western Isles.

      The introduction of Ret removed all multi-journey tickets to the Western Isles.

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      • We assume that the reason for the removal of the multijourney tickets once RET came in for the Western Isles was that if fares were genuine road journey equivalents, a discount on that (which multis would offer) would be prejudiced against mainland motorists.

        RET is about a level playing field, not skewing costs against road journeys.

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        • Multi-journey tickets were removed because they are unfare to people who cannot afford to buy them – at least that is the explanation given by the Government in their ferry review.

          The cheapest way to buy tickets on Western is to buy a book of 10 Car and Driver but that means you need to spend £73 in one go.

          The apparent aim of the Government is have low tarrifs and make them available to all. Whether or not they have achieved this I don’t know. But given that they reported large increases in both vehicles and passengers (to the extent they were overwhelming the ferries) it seem likely they did.

          They are removing or reducing RET on commercial vehicles because apparently the savings made by commercial hauliers using HGVs were not being passed on to consumers.

          On the short Dunoon crossing local companies must be bearing the commercial costs directly on vans etc. The commercial rates being charged are not published.

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  9. A useful basic principle is that it is unwise to put an essential public service into the hands of a private monopoly.
    This crossing is perfect for competitive services which are always in the public interest.

    The volume of huge traffic coming to Cowal on the A83 and ever less suitable roads nearer Dunoon is positive proof that the presnt vehicle service is unacceptable in pricing and the purpose of having a ferry is being undermined

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    • Welcome back to the debate. Competition is good and there is nothing stopping another operator coming along and setting up a service to Western.

      The real problem facing the local campaigners is that public money can’t be used to set up any competing service. Whether this is capital to provide new boats or money to subsidise a vehicle service.

      It is that simple.

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      • That is completely untrue.

        The EU ruled that the there could be a vehicle service on the route and that the Government could supply the vessels for the service and require all bidders to use the supplied vessel, even if some of the bidders had vessels that would be cheaper to use.

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        • Okay, when and where did the EU say that? As it was not in the 2009 report. Did you overhear that at a public meeting?

          If you are right why didn’t the SNP do just that as part of the recent Gourock/Dunoon tender? The report came out in 2009 and the SNP therefore had three years to sort this out and deliver what you just suggested.

          What the EC said was that there could be a vehicle service as long as it was not subsidised. This includes any capital spend.

          Secondly in the recent North Isles tender, the Government could not force the bidders to use the exisiting boats. Yes they were available but bidders could bring in their own vessels. The incentive being that if it resulted in a cheaper bid then they would win. If you don’t believe me ask Michael Russell.

          You might also want to re-read the 2009 report again and speak to Mike before responding.

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          • The Commission Communication on the
            interpretation of the Maritime Cabotage Regulation (section 5.3.2.1.) states that
            “where Member States’ authorities themselves own vessels or have them otherwise
            at their disposal, these may be placed at the disposal of all potential service operators under the same non-discriminatory terms”.

            Article 86(2) of the Treaty does not require the Member State to choose the most cost efficient way of delivering the public service.

            In other words the Government could require bidders to use supplied vessels even if a bidder had more effective vessels.

            In the case of the Dunoon Gourock route the Government went back on a promise to supply 2 new vehicle ferries. If it had built them it could have required bidders to use them.

            In its tender it did permit a vehicle service to be offered (without cross subsidy), but of course without ships nobody could offer that.

            At its simplest the Government could have produced a tender that said; we want bidders to continue to operate the existing streaker service using the existing vessels.

            That would have fully met the EU requirement i.e. the route had been tendered and everybody including the EU agreed that there was no cross subsidy on the old service.

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  10. The “most cost efficient way of delivering” what that means is the differecne between lowest cost and most economically adventageous.

    Again, if they could do you not think they would have? Why if it was this so clear did they not do so? The SNP have never fully answered why they did not.

    I do think that the Streakers were well past retirement.

    If the streakers were used the subsidy line would have much the same, whereas with the new service there has been a dramatic saving.

    There are just to many unanswered questions that mostly start, with didn’t the SNP………? Therefore until such time as there is clarity we will never know.

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  11. I absolutely agree the SNP went back on their promise and that they have never explained why.

    When Mike Russell was pressed on this at the Queens Hall meeting he just said he was not party to the decision, lets not look back lets look forward …..

    The streakers were past their best and expensive to run. I just used them as a simple example that all the EU required was for the route to be tendered and that the old service would have met the EU needs including the cross subsidy requirement.

    Your point about the new service being a dramatic saving is a false one. That is like saying you needed a reliable car but went out and bought an old banger which fails to get you to and from work and so saved a lot of money. No, what you did was waste a lot of money on something that did not work. By your logic you could save even more money by not having any car at all.

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  12. No the saving is a fact.

    Yes there have been problems with the current service but the frequencies have almost doubled. Therefore, whilst the Ali Cat may have been off more times it has at the same time delivered more sailings. Therefore whilst the number of cancelations has increased, the percentage of cancelations against competed sailings has reduced. It really depends on how you see the glass, either half full or half empty. I am guessing that you are empty.

    The SNP failed to do what they promised and what you and others thought possible. Why was that? Perhaps it was simply not possible to deliver, despite your cherry picking of European Commission Communications.

    I don’t understand the point you are making about the car. However if you don’t use something and don’t need it, then there is no argument for keeping it.

    Unfortunately it would seem that you are still upset that the someone gave you a car but told you that you could only use it twice an hour and when you did not use it, they took it away and instead gave you a bike. Now that its been taken away you complain about the bike in the vain hope that you can get the car back.

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    • The frequency has doubled but but the rate of cancellations has far more than doubled. That is because the old service used larger ships that could cope with the weather and the new service uses bathtubs which cannot.

      The bathtubs are cancelling and being disrupted for days at a time in summer weather, something that simply did not happen at all with the former ships.

      If you don’t understand the car argument how about; your child not getting taught because their teacher is late, or nurses not being available in hospital because they are late, or students being late for lectures. This is supposed to be a commuter service!

      Over the course of many years, and on the back of Government promises, people have built their lives around there being a reliable town center ferry service.
      Suddenly that reliable service has been removed.

      There are going to be to gradual but very predictable consequences of this. Firstly people who need to use the service regularly will tend to leave the area. Secondly new blood who might move to the area intending to commute will not come. The end result will be ongoing economic decline for Cowal and Dunoon.

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  13. I remember when the Caledonian Steam Packet could not operate at a profit and then it was merged with Macbraynes to make Calmac. Dunoon and Cowal has a serviceable land route unlike the islands like Mull and Bute and yet has better ferry service than them. The basic problem is the car ferry is uneconomic and if a new service is put on the route who will pay for it? In the past the residents and visitors to the area failed to use the service hence its demise, and no commercial company is interested because there is is no profit in the route. Michael Russell has tried his best as have others but it is time for a reality check it is unreasonable to get every wish list realised. In a time of restraint we must prioritise and live within budgets never mind the constraints placed by both contractual conditions not to mention European legislation. Let the complainers come up with a workable solution that makes both fiscal sense and fits what is required by the Dunoon and Cowal area residents. Knocking people who try is unfair, the SNP are not the only people who have been unable to provide all they intended too. This has been a long on-going problem and the outcome will never satisfy all. Do all the detractors think that the Labour party or the Lib-Tory coalition would find a solution any easier to achieve, I doubt it. Come up with something logical.

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    • Do our road bridges make a profit, our tunnels or roads even – no. We accept that infrastructure has to be put in place at a national level. In the case of the East of Scotland that involves spending billions on a free to use bridge.

      Where there are islands or peninsulas that infrastructure should include ferries and the very limited funding that would be required for a modern, efficient, seaworthy fleet.

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  14. Robert Allan

    You are talking nonsense. The car ferry always ran at a profit. The reason people stopped using it was that it was artificially restricted, initially by the Tories, to one sailing per hour (even when there were three streakers available) and was allowed no late sailings while Western Ferries went from two sailings per hour to three and then four sailings per hour and a service till midnight.
    There was a huge increase in traffic which CalMac was not allowed to cater for and the only route they had that was making substantial profits was very deliberately destroyed. The passenger only service can only run with a subsidy. A car ferry service properly run would need none and would bring visiting vehicular traffic into Dunoon which is a pretty important issue.

    The six year tender made it highly unlikely that any commercial company would have boats built to put on the route. That was the intention of a ridiculous restricted tender.
    The present passenger only service is designed to fail. No competent or commercial operation would have put boats on that can’t operate in a knee high swell.

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    • Only verifiable facts can determine who is or isn’t talking nonsense, Dave, but I’d be grateful if you could explain how you would expect your preferred option of a car ferry service to provide adequately (and I mean that) for foot passengers, including easy transfer to the train at Gourock. Awkward gangplanks between boat and shore aren’t acceptable, and neither are unavoidable flights of stairs on the boat, or a tedious trek – exposed to the weather – between boat and train. I think that this is ‘a pretty important issue’ now, and likely to be even more so in the future if – as reported – 30% of Dunoon residents don’t have cars.

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    • Dave, these arguments lost any credibility years ago. The vehicle service only showed a profit because almost 90% of the costs of providing the service were matched against the passenger service. As for being restricted Calmac, that was done after the 1982 investigation due to the risk of cross subsidising the vehicle service. Calmac could have put on extra and later sailings if they could prove that it could be done without subsidy.

      No government would be competent if they approved a tender which planned to use boats that could not operate in a knee high swell. I don’t why you keep on attacking Argyll, it was the government who awarded them the tender.

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      • By the time CalMac had restrictions placed on them, Western was carrying two thirds of the traffic anyway, despite CalMac running two boats and well into the evening too. Some people should do some proper research before making their unfounded claims!

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    • If what you say is true, where are the commercial ferry operators straining to operate the service, that is so profitable? When the last ferry leaves Bute or Mull you are stuck on the island. People in Cowal and Dunoon can go by road. The Mull ferry is more expensive than crossing the channel to France. Get a life.

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  15. calmac biggest selling car tourist ticket by far is the car rover ticket which is still wonderful value. Most people using it come from the central belt or the South and used the three mainland ports, Gourock, weymss Bay and Brodick. Not having a Gourock Dunoon car service rules Gourock out, this was the major route used, thereby giving great benifit to Bute and Arran while ruling out Dunoon and most of Cowal. This is a huge loss of revenue to the town centre of Dunoon and a large part of Cowal. If you want Dunoon to thrive then support the reinstatement of town centre to town centre car ferries, if you don’t then carry on the crazy arguments as before. Twice last week I used Western Ferries excellent service but on both occasions a ferry left full leaving my car behind. There is plenty traffic for both so everyones campaign should be “Save Dunoon Town Centre” with a proper vehicle service and NOT the Ali Cat or Argyll Flyer.

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    • Where are the facts that back up your claim thst the rover ticket was the biggest selling tourist ticket. The biggest selling ticket tourist ticket was and is the day return. Those who arrive on foot are the visitors who will visit the town centre attractions and shops. Those with the connecting rover tickets are heading onwards out of Dunoon.

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  16. Did Western not accept the Rover tickets for a period? Surely some agreement could be put in place to include Western’s Dunoon service in the scheme?

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    • So surely most of the tourist traffic doesn’t want to stop in Dunoon Town Centre in any case – people get off the ferry and want to get moving, unless it’s mealtime or they’re staying near Dunoon and haven’t done their shopping already. I wonder at the mentality of whoever gave Dunoon Lad’s sensible and constructive comment the thumbs down?

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    • Most of the traffic (if not all) coming off a CalMac ferry at Dunoon, and using a Hopscotch/Rover ticket, kept on going to their next destination (Portavadie, or the Loch Eck road). Anyway, A&B Council made dashed sure that Dunoon was not an attractive place to stop by making it impossible to park on Dunoon’s main street!

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  17. Dave, I am sure that ABF will rest easy knowing that he has your full support.

    Robert, any point that argues against the return of a vehicle service gets a thumb down. Obviously those who put the thumbs down believe that their opinion it is going to change the world. However given the contributiors to the ongoing debate, I think you can make a fairly accurate prediction.

    Anything with regards a rover ticket would be better than nothing and it will recreate the linkage and the joint marketing. I do remember that CalMac mentioned it around the turn of the year but obviously nothing came of it. Again the moaners would rather cut their nose off to spite their face and just like their position on pontoon as its a concession to the permanence of the passenger service.

    ABF no response to my question about beng captain sandy.

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  18. Arrived at McInroy’s Point yesterday at approx. 16.20, just as the ferry was about to depart.There were three lanes of cars left behind, including us.
    By the time the next ferry arrived,loaded and departed we left behind more than two lanes of cars.
    Western had three ferries running but surely this is proof they are not coping (to the satisfaction of customers) since being awarded the monopoly situation we find ourselves with.
    This happens regularly so please spare us the drivel from those who don’t live in the area and don’t use the ferries.
    This is not as it might seem a criticism of Western, they run a decent service.
    What is obvious to all is there should be a vehicle/passenger service running from Gourock to Dunoon town centres as there was before the Scottish Government reneged on an election promise to provide two new ferries for the route, instead lumbering us with the bathtub boats.
    Competition is healthy and that is what is needed.

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        • The timetabled service given by Western Ferries did not change after the withdrawl of the CalMac service. In fairness, they have started to run a shuttle service more often than they used to, usually when all four of their ferries are on duty. Whilst waiting for twenty minutes might seem a big issue to some, to state that they are not coping just isn’t true. You emphasise that by stating that the boat that sailed when you arrived left three lanes of cars, and the one you got left two lanes behind.

          If you travelled by CalMac, you had to be there 20 minutes before sailing time (according to their timetable): if you were at Western Ferries’ terminals 20 minutes before the boat was due, you would probably get on an earlier sailing!

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  19. ‘this is not a criticism of Western…’ – really?
    For all that I don’t sympathise with those who demand a return of the vehicle ferry to the old route and think of foot passengers as an irrelevant distraction, it does sound as if maybe WF should have been running four rather than three boats. So if you arrived at 16.20, Gus, how long did you actually have to wait?

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    • I did say approx. 16.20, it was perhaps very slightly later.
      The ferry we departed on left at 16.50

      It was not a criticism of Western, I said they run a decent service.

      Your reasons for saying maybe WF should have been running four rather than three boats, taking into account your usual stance does not justify comment.

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      • My ‘usual stance’ is to wonder why so much of the fuss is from people who defend the need for a revival of the vehicle ferry service but – going by their invariable lack of interest in anything else – really don’t appear to give a damn for foot passengers.
        So I’m not sure why my remark about WF maybe needing to have been running four ferries (as I understand they generally can) ‘does not justify comment’
        I could go further and say that – as they operate the only vehicle ferry across the Clyde here – WF should be politely requested by the government to publish their commercial vehicle rates without further ado, and if that doesn’t work they deserve a hefty kicking that hurts them in the wallet; it wouldn’t be the first time that they’ve had a kicking.

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  20. Peter Wade

    Nonsense. Have you read the definitive Deloite Touche report (commissioned by the Government) on the CalMac operation?

    The vehicle service received no cross subsidy from foot pasengers. This was not allowed.

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    • Oh for crying out loud! Go and read the EU report into the subsidies that CalMac were receiving. Or better still, be really smart and read what the report doesn’t say. No cross subsidy? Rubbish!

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    • Dave, the past is past. Looking forward the cost difference between buying and operating a new vehicle ferry compared to costs of operating a passenger ferry will be millions. Hence why the tender result was passenger only.

      The 1998 report is now a Jurassic relic and was so wrong when it was issued it had to be appended due to the fact that the financial assumptions were wrong. Do you not think if it accurate it would have been acted upon?

      The simple truth is that when the streaker was operating 90% of the costs were shown against the passenger service and the European report now makes this apportionment impossible going forward. It is time that you and others accepted this because this is the future.

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  21. “The 1998 report is now a Jurassic relic and was so wrong when it was issued it had to be appended due to the fact that the financial assumptions were wrong.”

    Nonsense.
    Evidence,please.

    There are two logical solutions to the issue.
    Either you
    (a) put on a proper ferry service which can adequately cope with the weather conditions on a frequently stormy crossing or
    (b)you have no ferry service into Dunoon.

    The putting on of two unsuitable craft indicates that option(b)was chosen somewhere in the Transport Department and the “tubs” service was designed to fail as quickly as possible. You can tell that by the portacabin facilities at Dunoon and the stripping of comfortable passenger amenities at Gourock.
    It has nothing really to do with all the complicated piffle I read on this site.

    If option(a) is chosen you build or acquire vessels of the size that can cope with the weather conditions. The Jupiter, Juno and Saturn were all designed specifically in size and weight for the Dunoon/Gourock crossing. They served the route for the best part of four decades and were the only significantly profitable part of the Calmac network until their operation was destroyed by an artificial restriction of one sailing per hour and no night sailing despite there being three of them. This was inflicted on them at a period during which a rapid increase of vehicle traffic was being experienced and during which all sailings left Dunoon full of traffic leaving very often a couple of lanes of traffic behind.

    There is no point in building boats of a suitable size for this crossing unless they also carry vehicles. Vehicle carrying is a very lucrative operation, unlike carrying passengers which cannot cover costs.
    The vast majority of residents in the Dunoon area agree that a Dunoon/Gourock crossing would be their vehicle crossing of choice were it unrestricted and able to run more than once hourly.
    It also connected properly with the train to Glasgow.
    The Dunoon/Gourock route also brought a significant volume of visiting vehicular traffic into Dunoon which now goes nowhere near Dunoon. This is critical.

    I suspect most commentators on this issue do not belong to Dunoon as they obviously have no interest in Dunoon and Cowal having a good, competitive ferry service on what is the busiest crossing in Europe.

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  22. “The 1998 report is now a Jurassic relic and was so wrong when it was issued it had to be appended due to the fact that the financial assumptions were wrong.” Nonsense. Evidence please.”

    Dave, when the appendum to the main report came out, due to the inaccuracy of the initial figures it came up with a different conclusion.

    “There are two logical solutions to the issue” neither of these are logical, they are at best parochial.

    “The putting on of two unsuitable craft indicates that option(b)was chosen somewhere in the Transport Department, no they were approved by the SNP, is it the SNP who have designed the service to fail.

    The Council want to improve the facilities in Dunoon  as quickly as possible. What do you mean by “stripping of comfortable passenger amenities at Gourock”? Is that the removal of the sweetie machines? .

    Two of the Streakers operated on the Bute service, its not as if they were sitting around doing nothing until they were replaced. Explain “significantly profitable” none of CalMac’s routes makes/made a profit, they are all subsidized. Restrictions on the route were put in place to stop the cross-subsidisation of the vehicle service, CalMac could have put on extra sailings on a commercial basis at any time, and did so during the Cowal Games. “All sailings left Dunoon full of traffic leaving very often a couple of lanes of traffic behind” That is the biggest whopper I have ever heard in my life.

    “Vehicle carrying is a very lucrative operation” where are your facts and figures? Don’t use Western for an example as they operate different boats on a shorter crossing to their own piers. The profit on CalMac’s vehicle was achieved by allocating 90% of the costs to the passenger service.

    “The vast majority of residents in the Dunoon area agree that a Dunoon/Gourock crossing would be their vehicle crossing of choice” Utter rubbish, Western Ferries have had the majority of vehicle traffic since  in 1977 (source monopolies and mergers commission 1983).

    “The Dunoon/Gourock route also brought a significant (what is significant?) volume of visiting vehicular traffic into Dunoon” no it did not, “which now goes nowhere near Dunoon” how do you know this? Are you just making this up?

    “The busiest crossing in Europe” no its not. I suggest that you do some more research.

    Dave, your piece is nothing more than gutter trash, this piece reeks of massive exaggeration, invention, supposition and make believe. Ever thought of writing fairy tales? As for not living in the area, don’t worry I can smell your bull from here.  

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    • The primary fault is that the SNP went back on their promise to deliver two vehicle ferries for the route. The reasons for this have never been explained particularly as substantial investment in infrastructure, including funding from the EU, to support vehicle ferries had already been put in place.

      The secondary fault is that the passenger only service put in place has been a failure since the outset. The implementation of the service is down to Transport Scotland but the Government are supposedly in control of them.

      Furthermore the Government created a private monopoly of cross Firth of Clyde vehicle traffic and effectively gifted some 60,000 vehicle crossings per annum to Western Ferries.

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  23. @Dave MH – yes, what you want WOULD have been the popular choice. The present situation is completly different. A private operator will have been on the route for 40 years in 2013! The rules have had to be changed because of this, and European Regulation. Time to wake up and realise it is now 2012. Yes, the passenger service needs sorted, but probably not by a new vehicular service. Cal-Mac probably added to this situation by the way they ran the service e.g. Ticket restrictions, staff attitude, account keeping etc. Better boats, better passenger shore facilities including means of boarding, especially the distance to walk at Gourock. How this service can be in a modern Scotland is totally unacceptable. And remember, by this time next year, Western should be operating their two new ferries, which should resolve any capacity issues.

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    • The only way to sort the passenger only service is to use larger vessels. Once you use larger vessels to be economic they have to carry vehicles – simples.

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        • You need to make a choice about whether or not there is to be a town centre ferry service.

          Assuming a town centre service is required (the EU rated it as an essential service), then you need large vessels to make it reliable. This was known from the Deloitte Touche report which said “large hulled” vessels were needed on the Firth of Clyde.

          If you wish you can then run these large vessels just passenger only. Alternatively you can carry vehicles on them reducing the subsidy required and so making them more economic – that is what I mean.

          The stunning incompetence of Transport Scotland was to spend £2M on small vessels, plus a subsidy for them, then be surprised they cannot run and so wish to add £4M for pontoons (which serve no purpose) plus additional costs for a larger replacement for the AliCat. The net result of the current fiasco is that the cost of decent ferry will be spent on a service that still will not function.

          By not function I mean that not only are the users of the Argyll Ferries service suffering but regular car drivers are also having difficulties and those foot passengers that have abandoned Argyll Ferries have ongoing problems because the buses don’t get on the vehicle ferries reliably. Meanwhile Inverclyde Council contemplate spending yet more money for a ring road to cope with the diverted traffic. All round a total and utter expensive mess.

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          • Ferryman: If you are you so convinced that pontoons would serve no purpose, you presumably know of a better way of providing easy and speedy access for potentially large numbers of people between boat and shore?

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          • “You need to make a choice about whether or not there is to be a town centre ferry service.” I don’t think anyone, including Western, has argued for the removal of the passenger service.  

            Despite the initial startup, the current vessels are reliable. Don’t forget the Streakers cancelled sailings in bad weather and the contractual relief for bad weather cancellations appears in other ferry tender contracts.

            “If you wish you can then run these large vessels just passenger only. Alternatively you can carry vehicles on them reducing the subsidy required and so making them more economic – that is what I mean.” Yes the revenue from cars will reduce the subsidy, however the associated operating subsidy for a vehicle service will still exceed the current levels for a passenger-only service. Cowal Ferries £3.2m Argyll Ferries £1.75m. This is just one year, multiply that over 25 years and the difference pays for new vessels and pontoons and still saves the taxpayer a fortune.  

            Any increase in subsidy associated with reintroducing a vehicle service, is subsidising a vehicle service, this is unlawful.  Also, the reporting requirements contained within the European report will not allow 90% of the costs to be allocated to the passenger service.

            Even if you add the cost of pontoons to that of new passenger-only vessels, then the cost will still be cheaper than a new vehicle ferry.   

            “The net result of the current fiasco is that the cost of decent ferry will be spent on a service that still will not function.” You say above that a bigger passenger vessel would be required therefore why will this not function.

            Western has the ability to increase frequency and with the bigger boats will have plenty of capacity. McGills have changed their timetable to ensure that they get on the right sailing.

            “Meanwhile Inverclyde Council contemplate spending yet more money for a ring road to cope with the diverted traffic.” CalMac only carried 60,000 cars a year that equates to roughly only 10 cars per hour, this will have no effect on congestion. Also the traffic which was previously turning right to head west, now bypasses Gourock completely by using Western.

            In the end a solution that costs more cannot be economic.

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  24. Ferryman

    Exactly.

    I am impressed by the way all the political parties are cooperating and working sensibly in the Ferry Users Group. As every political party – the Tories, Labour, the LibDems and the SNP have contributed to this utter shambles can I hope that the silly blame stuff that goes on on the local paper, particularly from Alan Reid, is stopped.

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    • The SNP have had 5 years to sort this, they were the party that specified the tender and awarded the contract to Argyll. They also initiated the european report. Guilty.

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      • Dave, yes whilst other parties dithered over a solution, the SNP came in, provided and delivered the current solution.

        I wonder who is most responsible, those that did nothing about it or those who were responsible for the end of the vehicle service.

        The SNP can’t duck, dodge or blame anyone one else, so stop trying. Grow up, be a man, take the responsibility. And stop trying to blame others, I stopped doing that when I left the playground.

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  25. Pingback: Argyll News: Gourock-Dunoon ferry: the authoritative position | For Argyll

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