You are trying to shirk the question again. What …

Comment posted MSP’s views on the A83 situation by ferryman.

You are trying to shirk the question again.

What would be wrong with a private company solving the problem on the “Rest” with a “truely excellent” solution and then being free to charge say £40 for a family of four in a car to make a return trip? Commercial vehicles would be charged a lot more no doubt.

You seem to be in favour of the equivalent for the people of Dunoon, but don’t want it for your self on a road that you use.

Perhaps you see some drawbacks when you want to travel, for tourism, and for the price of goods and services – do these drawbacks not also apply in Dunoon?

ferryman also commented

  • As I understand it there is nothing to stop the Government now imposing a limit on the profit margin made by Western Ferries – I could be wrong but the situation seems straightforward. If there are any legal beagles out there comments would be welcome.

    Western are now the sole provider of a vehicle crossing of the Firth of Clyde. Dunoon and Cowal would be in a dire situation if it did not exist.

    The crossing is therefore providing an essential service. As such there does not seem to be anything to stop the Government imposing a Public Service Obligation on the company, limiting its fares and profit margins to a “fair” level – there is no need to provide compensation if this is done, because of course the company is still gaining a “fair” profit margin.

    I wish to see competition on the route. However if the current monopoly situation persits then really the Government have a duty to act as, if the current levels are in excess of “fair” then surely that is profiteering?

    Of course the Government has been very clear about the effect of RET where it has been introduced – both vehicle and passenger number have increased dramatically. The result could therfore be a win for all, with Western carrying more traffic at lower fares and lower profit margin but actually making more money.

    As I said I prefer competition, but Public Service Obligations seem a fair alternative.

  • The Government is permitted to subsidise the passenger only service in Dunoon to a fair level of profit under EU rules. So there is already some way of deciding what “fair” is.

    I believe the Government can simply impose a Public Service Obligation on Western Ferries to charge fares that result in a fair profit.

    I want competition. Failing that I want Western limited to a fair profit.

    You are suggesting RET which I suspect will result in even cheaper fares (the crossing is short), fine. Though I think in that case a subsidy might be required.

  • Robert, I had missed you saying that.

    So to be clear then you want the charges on Western Ferries to be capped at the level of RET?

    Presumably you only want compensation paid to Western if they then make less than what might be considered a “fair” profit for the industry sector?

  • What do you think would be a fair fee for a return ticket on the “Rest” for a family of four. Maybe £40? That would be in line with the Firth of Clyde ferry crossing. Do you think perhaps that might have an adverse effect on tourism and commerce in general?

    Its certainly a lot more than the Forth Road bridge which is costing billions but will be free to use.

  • Of course it is a sensible question. Tolls can be charged on motorways, bridges, tunnels – anything you want.

    The trend has been to remove them. However on the Dunoon Gourock ferry route we have gone completely in the opposite direction. We have a sole supplier with no control on fares or profit. I don’t want free vehicle ferries just competition, you (who don’t use the service) keep arguing against it.

    So why would you object to tolls on the “Rest” with no control on fares and profit. It seems like exactly the same situation for me.

    Is the only difference that you use the “Rest” and so are not quite so keen on the idea of private monopolies when its your pocket that get hits. Really Robert you are spoilt for choice there is the A83 or the A82.

Recent comments by ferryman

  • Responses to Scottish Government’s Information Day on potential Gourock-Dunoon ferry service
    As usual newsroom bends things by quoting the MVA report as saying the vehicle service ‘could be feasible’.

    In fact the reports states; “This study has therefore demonstrated that, given the assumptions made and analysis
    undertaken here,a passenger and vehicle ferry service IS feasible.”
    [ see section 9.1.10 http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/documents/reports/j278759/j278759.pdf ]

    I am not surprised that Serco are interested in what is Scotland’s busiest vehicle ferry route particularly when the competition turns such a massive profit margin from poorly located ports.

    If Serco have wider ambitions for ferries in Scotland, as it seems they do, then Dunoon Gourock would make sense.

  • Scottish Government moves on Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services provision
    “A lifeline ferry service is required in order for a community to be viable.”

    So Dunoon is lifeline then – good.

  • Scottish Government moves on Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services provision
    Newsroom says that Dunoon Gourock is “not a lifeline service”.

    I think Dunoon Gourock is an essential lifeline service but obviously Soapbox aka Newsroom does not.

    So where is the definition of “lifeline” so that we can decide who is correct?

    The answer is that there is no definition – Transport Scotland shall decide, route by route, to whom that applies.

    As to contractual terms, look at Dunoon Gourock, anybody can run anything there is absolutely no contractual need for the service to be reliable. So if your route is goung to be tendered in this way you are totally unprotected.

    Of course Dunoon Gourock is only a piddling little route – well no, according to the Scottish Government it is the most important Scottish route for vehicle transport and significant even on European terms, but that of course is not enough to make it lifeline in Newsroom’s eyes.

  • So what will Transport Scotland talk to Brussels about on Dunoon-Gourock ferry?
    Read the report.

    The taxpayer and the people of Dunoon/Cowal can have a passenger only service and pay a subsidy for it.

    Alternatively they can pay the same subsidy and get a passenger and vehicle service.

    Of course if they choose the vehicle service then the subsidy is paid back via berthing fees both to the Scottish Government and Argyll and Bute Council – in other words to the public purse it is for practical purposes free (which the passenger only service is not). Not only that but the operator of the vehicle service makes a larger profit.

    All of which in a Scottish Government produced report meets all EC requirements.

  • Lairds powering on to get Western’s boats completed
    So they are not actually as promised going to be in service for the games this year?

    If they were in service what would the additional car carrying capacity and people carrying capacity per hour have been?

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30 Responses to You are trying to shirk the question again. What …

  1. Well said; the inadequacy of Transport Scotland’s ‘dedicated’ Rest & Be Thankful information page on their website needs to be rectified, and unfortunately this seems to mirror their performance in progressing both a temporary alternative route and a long term answer to the instability of the mountainside.
    And Citylink/Westcoast could surely highlight their revised bus timetable immediately services are affected by a road closure at the Rest.

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  2. Michael Russell refers to ‘a further extraordinary period of rainfall’ – and it would be interesting to know the figures for the Rest & Be Thankful area in the days before the road closure on friday evening. I wonder if it was that extraordinary? Severe summer downpours are not that unusual in the hills, and if they’re definitely increasing in frequency and/or severity then how long before it’s acknowledged that we need to revise our ideas about what is considered exceptional weather?

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  3. Any summit should include a selection of engineers who have experience of dealing with similarly challenging terrain. The two I’ve happened upon came up with similar solutions and both asserted that you couldn’t fight with a decomposing mountain and win.

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  4. Extra ordinary rainfall ? wrong kind of leaves on the track ? where have we heard this before.
    The old road is still open…and I wonder how many times it closed during it’s life time….

    It seems to me that it is not rocket science to construct a road on par with the roads in the Alps an even more active (in geological terms) mountain range.and subject to regular major snowfall too..but is it economically viable ?

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    • Surely just as ‘economically viable’ as in the Alps – maybe the difference is that in Scotland as a whole there are very few main roads that are vulnerable to landslides, affecting a relatively small proportion of the population, whereas in some alpine countries there are far more roads at risk, and they are critical to a far greater number of peoplc.

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      • True enough…ferries to the isles are are classed as lifeline links and this should be the same in this “modern” world for our mountainous roads…

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    • Long range weather forecast for Argyll and Bute – continous, severe, exceptional, extraordinary, weather for the next five years causing disruption to cross Firth of Clyde ferry services and closures of the A83.

      The Dunoon passenger bathtub boats were off for exceptional weather through the winter, then in April, then in June. The A83 gets closed by rain, who would have expected rain in scotland? How often can the Government keep trotting out excuses that the weather is exceptional.

      Even once an emergency road is eventually in place it is likely that there will be prolonged periods of disruption on the A83. Vehicle ferries across the Firth of Clyde are a viable alternative for many, but there needs to be competition or, failing that, price control.

      Interesting that our MSP Michael Russell used Western Ferries. Does he pay for his own tickets or am I paying for them through his expenses?

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      • We had an exceptionally dry April and May on Tiree…with little or no wind…and an exceptionally wet winter with exceptionally strong winds. It seems the SE of Enland has had exceptionally dry times and unfortunatelly an exceptionally wet one too. I am told that it is likely to be exceptionally dark on the 21st of December and it was exceptionally light on the 21st June…I am sure upgrading the road engineering wise would not be an exceptional feat…however the road would be closed for an exceptionally long time.
        Seriously, do we have to wait until somebody dies before we get an assured link ?

        £3bn upgrade of A9 to start early:
        The Scottish government says it will start work on making the A9 dual carriageway all the way from Inverness to Perth earlier than expected.

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        • Unfortunately, it’s because people die so frequently on the A9 that it’s become politically dangerous to delay further doubling – and even so not of all the ‘missing bits’.
          It’s horrible to say, but I think that if a bus got knocked off the Rest by a slide you’d see the politicians jumping every which way, and the money and resources would suddenly materialise to get on with designing and executing the necessary upgrade.

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  5. It sounds like our MSP is losing the plot. He is now talking about tunnels under the Clyde!

    The A83 issue has been allowed to drag on and on.
    Promises to provide vehicle ferries for Dunoon-Gourock were reneged on. The passenger only service that has been installed is, as predicted, a disaster.

    There is a little bit of a credibility gap regarding ability to implement any project of significance – don’t you think?

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    • I hadn’t heard that Michael Russell has been talking about tunnels under the Clyde, but to do so is hardly ‘losing the plot.’ However, if there’s the suggestion of a tunnel ‘killing two costly birds with one stone’ in the long term, the politicians need to be careful – the road from the end of the A8 through Greenock to opposite Dunoon is a tedious drive, as is the last stretch of the A815 through Sandbank to Dunoon. Neither stretch is good for a lot more traffic, including plenty of hgvs.

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  6. Remember, it’s not just the Rest, but pretty much the whole of the A82-83. And the 85, and the 75 and I’m sure pretty much every rural trunk road in Scotland needs some work for safety and capacity.

    I doubt we’ll see much new activity until the A9 dualling is complete.

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  7. By the time the A9 is finished there will be no money left. We will be lucky to get a new white line painted up the Rest.

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    • Very true. Lots of money for the A9, the Forth Road Bridge, borders trains – why is our MSP failing so singularly to get funding in Argyll, A83 closures, A82 closed now, Dunoon Gourock passenger ferry not fit for purpose.

      Still Mr Russell believes we should be dreaming of some far distant utopia where there is a tunnel under the Firth of Clyde. If there ever is it will not be Mr Russell who delivers it that is for sure.

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  8. It’s time Argyll & Bute had an MSP whose priority is to fight for the constituency . Clearly the present one has little interest in the areas problems unless he can use them to promote separation .

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    • Mike Russell, and the other politicians for that matter, don’t seem to even understand the problem. They are all talking about having ways round the “Rest” as if these were a solution – they are not. The military road or the forest road would buy some time if the “Rest” were blocked for say a couple of weeks, but they would be very poor termporary fixes.

      Nobody is saying what the real risk on the “Rest” is. Is there a danger of a big landslide and if so what would the closure period be 3 months, 6 months, a year, or maybe even permanent closure?

      If there is a risk of more than a month then what permanent solution are the politicians working on?

      This is not a new problem, presumably Transport Scotland have been busy getting geological surveys done and have well developed civil engineering plans for several alternative solutions in the pipeline?

      Or have then and our MSP been doing nothing, crossing their fingers and hoping that the problem will go away?

      As with the Dunoon Ferry issue I get the impression that Transport Scotland don’t do their job well and the politicians don’t have the skill or knowledge to control them.

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      • If you were to read the quote from Mike Russell again you’d see that of course he understands the problem, but that apparently the ‘longer term route survey’ hasn’t even reported yet. That’s what’s creating lack of confidence in government commitment to pushing on with a permanent answer to the problem, and the apparent dithering in choosing and progressing the creation of an emergency route is just pouring petrol on the fire.

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        • When I read the article what I see is Mike Russell blaming the weather.

          He says government funding is in place for the temporary solution, so why is it not in place, what has he been doing about it?

          He says the “longer term route survey” is not complete, when did he ask for it, the problem has been here for five years!

          During that five years his government has reduced the alternative vehicle routes across the Firth of Clyde from two to one. That one being in private hands with no price control.

          You don’t seem to mind the ferries being in private hands but you still have not given a sensible answer as to what the difference would be if the solution to the “Rest” was to let a private company fix it and then charge tolls without any control over prices or profits.

          I think it would be a terrible idea, but since you are happy to inflict it on ferry users what is the problem with doing it on the “Rest”?

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          • Of course it is a sensible question. Tolls can be charged on motorways, bridges, tunnels – anything you want.

            The trend has been to remove them. However on the Dunoon Gourock ferry route we have gone completely in the opposite direction. We have a sole supplier with no control on fares or profit. I don’t want free vehicle ferries just competition, you (who don’t use the service) keep arguing against it.

            So why would you object to tolls on the “Rest” with no control on fares and profit. It seems like exactly the same situation for me.

            Is the only difference that you use the “Rest” and so are not quite so keen on the idea of private monopolies when its your pocket that get hits. Really Robert you are spoilt for choice there is the A83 or the A82.

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          • What do you think would be a fair fee for a return ticket on the “Rest” for a family of four. Maybe £40? That would be in line with the Firth of Clyde ferry crossing. Do you think perhaps that might have an adverse effect on tourism and commerce in general?

            Its certainly a lot more than the Forth Road bridge which is costing billions but will be free to use.

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          • Ferryman – the reason I find it difficult to sympathise with your comments is that in my opinion you greatly exaggerate the negative aspect of Western Ferries’ service – which in truth is excellent, you sometimes misrepresent my opinions, and seem to me to have given little or no thought to my particular concern, which is the provision of a good quality passenger service at Gourock, with civilised access between boat and train.
            We could go on arguing about this till the cows come home, but I doubt the situation at Dunoon will improve until there’s a really serious understanding of the damage to the economic and social life of the whole area by the long term neglect and running down of the passenger ferry links.
            I can’t recollect you commenting on the Gourock – Kilcreggan fiasco, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, you repeatedly criticise me because I’m not a frequent user of the ferry – as if that disqualifies me from having an opinion – and it seems to me you’re probably driven by narrow self interest, with a strong dose of intolerance thrown in.

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          • You are trying to shirk the question again.

            What would be wrong with a private company solving the problem on the “Rest” with a “truely excellent” solution and then being free to charge say £40 for a family of four in a car to make a return trip? Commercial vehicles would be charged a lot more no doubt.

            You seem to be in favour of the equivalent for the people of Dunoon, but don’t want it for your self on a road that you use.

            Perhaps you see some drawbacks when you want to travel, for tourism, and for the price of goods and services – do these drawbacks not also apply in Dunoon?

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          • Ferryman: I’ve previously suggested that ferries should all use the R.E.T., or even be free to vehicles on the basis that they’re taxed, but either you’ve forgotten or you just prefer not to know – rather like your comments on Michael Russell’s quoted views above.

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          • Robert, I had missed you saying that.

            So to be clear then you want the charges on Western Ferries to be capped at the level of RET?

            Presumably you only want compensation paid to Western if they then make less than what might be considered a “fair” profit for the industry sector?

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          • If a government can apply R.E.T. to a publicly owned ferry route then they must (not should) be able to do the same on a privately owned route. How they do it is another matter – maybe by paying WF to operate the route as a package, with an agreed audit system to ensure value for money, through buying WF’s assets and getting them to run the service, to buying them out completely (as they did with the Skye Bridge company) and putting it out to tender – if Calmac won it, then it would be an interesting exercise for everyone to see how their operating costs and efficiencies evolved in comparison with those of WF.

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          • The Government is permitted to subsidise the passenger only service in Dunoon to a fair level of profit under EU rules. So there is already some way of deciding what “fair” is.

            I believe the Government can simply impose a Public Service Obligation on Western Ferries to charge fares that result in a fair profit.

            I want competition. Failing that I want Western limited to a fair profit.

            You are suggesting RET which I suspect will result in even cheaper fares (the crossing is short), fine. Though I think in that case a subsidy might be required.

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          • You surely couldn’t impose an R.E.T. tariff without providing a subsidy, and my contention is that this would be just like the ‘subsidies’ to maintain the road system – all funded from road vehicle taxes.

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          • As I understand it there is nothing to stop the Government now imposing a limit on the profit margin made by Western Ferries – I could be wrong but the situation seems straightforward. If there are any legal beagles out there comments would be welcome.

            Western are now the sole provider of a vehicle crossing of the Firth of Clyde. Dunoon and Cowal would be in a dire situation if it did not exist.

            The crossing is therefore providing an essential service. As such there does not seem to be anything to stop the Government imposing a Public Service Obligation on the company, limiting its fares and profit margins to a “fair” level – there is no need to provide compensation if this is done, because of course the company is still gaining a “fair” profit margin.

            I wish to see competition on the route. However if the current monopoly situation persits then really the Government have a duty to act as, if the current levels are in excess of “fair” then surely that is profiteering?

            Of course the Government has been very clear about the effect of RET where it has been introduced – both vehicle and passenger number have increased dramatically. The result could therfore be a win for all, with Western carrying more traffic at lower fares and lower profit margin but actually making more money.

            As I said I prefer competition, but Public Service Obligations seem a fair alternative.

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