Last week Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil chaired a meeting with interested parties Continue reading
Research on statistics and some number crunching draws a very interesting picture Continue reading
Research on statistics and some number crunching draws a very interesting picture of the services currently delivered to Dunoon by its two ferry services.
These are: Argyll Ferries’ passenger-only service between the two town centres of Gourock and Dunoon, direct to and from the railhead at Gourock; and Western Ferries’ vehicle and passenger service between Dunoon and Gourock (Hunters’ Quay and McInroy’s Point).
This paper provides the detail to support the summary article: Research reveals shock insights into reality of Dunoon ferry service provision
1: Current passenger and car carrying capacities
The certificated capacities for the boats on the Gourock Dunoon route, for passenger and car carrying, are as follows.
- Argyll Flyer (Argyll Ferries): 244
- Ali Cat (Argyll Ferries): 240
- Western Ferries: 200
- 40 cars per boat.
2: Current annual number of sailings
- Argyll Ferries – year round - do 60 sailings a day, Monday to Saturday, 30 in each direction; and 30 sailings on Sundays, 15 in each direction. They do not sail on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and run a Sunday service frequency on Boxing Day. This amounts to a total of 20,130 sailings a year, 10,065 in each direction
- Western Ferries operates a service frequency differential between summer and winter but declare a provision of 30,000 sailings a year – 15,000 in each direction.
3: Passenger and car capacity delivered for Dunoon
These capacity and sailing frequency figures provide the basis for calculating the total number of passengers and cars that there is today the physical capacity to shift in and out of Dunoon in a year.
- Argyll Flyer and Ali Cat share the delivery of the Argyll Ferries service so their capacity can be averaged at 242 per sailing. With 20,130 sailings a year, this gives Argyll Ferries the capacity to move 4,871,460 passengers a year in and out of Dunoon.
- Western Ferries, with 30,000 sailings a year and a capacity of 200 passengers per sailing, has the ability to move 6,000,000 passengers a year in and out of Dunoon.
- Western Ferries, with 30,000 sailings a year and a capacity of 40 cars per sailing, is capable of moving 1,200,000 cars a year in and out of Dunoon.
In total, Dunoon’s current ferry services together are able to deliver:
- 10.871,460 passengers a year.
- 1,200,000 cars a year.
4: Total usage in passenger, car and vehicle transport
The Scottish Transport Statistics, published online, show figures for the actual carriage of passengers, cars and commercial vehicles and buses, for both Cowal Ferries and Western Ferries.
The latest year for which figures are available here is 2010. We have chosen to look at the usage figures for the three years from 2008 onwards. Our reasoning here is that 2008 marked the beginning of a different set of economic circumstances – with the UK (and worldwide) financial meltdown bequeathed by the banks, circumstances which will dictate our economic activity for a long time to come.
This period is part of that which saw the Gourock to Dunoon route served by Cowal Ferries vehicle and passenger service – running MV Saturn (or ‘the streakers’) and MV Ali Cat, alongside the Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service.
The total usage figures between the two services – for the years 2008. 2009 and 2010 – were recorded as follows:
- 2008: 1,859,300 (1,308.500 on Western Ferries and 550,800 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2009: 1,869,700 (1,336,200 on Western Ferries and 533,500 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2010: 1,813,000 (1,313,800 on Western ferries and 499,200 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2008: 659,800 (588,000 on Western Ferries and 71,800 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2009: 654,700 (584,000 on Western Ferries and 70,700 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2010: 625,400 (564,000 on Western Ferries and 61,400 on Cowal Ferries)
Commercial vehicles and buses
- 2008: 36,100 (32,200 on Western Ferries and 3,900 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2009: 37,600 (33,800 on Western Ferries and 3,800 on Cowal Ferries)
- 2010: 36,500 (33,000 on Western Ferries and 3,500 on Cowal Ferries)
5: Argyll Ferries passenger usage figures
In response to a recent written parliamentary question from Jamie McGriogor MSP, asking for passenger numbers for Argyll Ferries service to date, Transport Minister Keith Brown provided figures from 1st July 2008 to the end of March 2012. Figures for the quarter from 1st April to 30th June 2012 are not yet available.
The Minister’s figures were:
- 2011-12; Quarter One (July-September): 111,292
- 2011-12; Quarter Two (October-December): 75,171
- 2011-12; Quarter Three (January-March): 79,470
These show a total of 265,933 passengers carried by Argyll Ferries for the first three quarters of its first year of operation.
6: Previous capacity delivered by Cowal Ferries
MV Saturn and the ‘streakers’ delivered the Cowal Ferries vehicle and passenger service between the Gourock and Dunoon town centres, a service that came to an end in June 2011, replaced by the passenger only service from Argyll Ferries.
Saturn’s certificated capacity was 531 passengers and 38 cars. Getting 38 cars on board, though, meant physically manhandling the cars. We understand that during the last few years of this service, with increasing car sizes, the operational maximum capacity was 30-34.
The sailings delivered year round by Saturn and the streakers in the latter years were as follows:
- Mondays-Fridays: 18 returns a day – 15 vehicle and passenger as capacities above, with the addition of 3 returns from the Ali Cat. It is generally forgotten that Ali Cat has a substantial service record on this route.
- Saturdays: 14 returns
- Sundays: 13 returns
Using the certificated capacity figures for cars and passengers for these boats with these sailing frequencies, shows this service was capable of delivering:
- 5.66 million passengers a year in and out of Dunoon, 2.83 in each direction
- 399,836 cars a year in and our of Dunoon, 199,918 in each direction.
( The above figures assume the same service pattern as Argyll Ferries adopted later, with no service on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and Sunday service on Boxing Day).
7: Argyll Ferries’ performance to date, relative to Cowal Ferries’
Working from the quarterly figures the Transport Minister gave in answer to Jamie McGrigor’s recent parliamentary question, it is possible to distil a pattern of passenger custom on the Gourock-Dunoon route over the years since 2008 – a pattern that puts the performance of Argyll Ferries in a picture that may surprise its critics.
(The figures given by the Transport Minister can be found at the end of a recent article we published: More facts on Argyll Ferries’ Gourock Dunoon service.)
In each of these years the quarter from January to March is the least subscribed; followed by the second best subscribed quarter from April to June; the best subscribed one from July to September; and the second least subscribed from October to December.
Since this is a stable annual pattern, we compared the customer take up in each quarter with that in the same quarter of the following year. This showed a progressive audience decline, quarter on quarter.
In what was an otherwise consistent pattern, there were three figures that, for various reasons, were clearly eccentric. One was up where it should have been down. One was hugely down where it should have been a little down. One was a little down where it might have been expected to have been further down.
All three of these eccentric figures were the performance figures of each of Argyll Ferries’s first three recorded quarters in operation.
- Its first quarter – July to September 2011 – was 3.97% up on the passenger numbers carried by Cowal Ferries in the same quarter in 2010-11.
- Its second quarter – October-December 2011 – was a whopping 10.1% down of that period in 2010-11.
- Its third quarter – January to March – was a modest 1.8% down on the same quarter in the 2010-11. This 2010-11 quarter, operated by Cowal Ferries, was 5.74% down on its own same quarter of the year before, 2009-10; and this was 4.12% down on its own performance in the same quarter in 2008-09.
This pattern is actually an encouraging one for the beleaguered Argyll Ferries.
Its first – and traditionally best quarter of the year, July to September, was markedly up on the same quarter the year before.This is most plausibly credited to the enviable service frequency – 60 sailings a day, 30 in each direction – twice as many as the former Cowal Ferries’ service.
Its second quarter’s figures – the disastrous plummet – covered the October to December period where it suffered technical failures, unreliability of service, cancellations. This was also the period where the persistent campaign to get the second vehicle and passenger service restored for the Gourock Dunoon route found its voice. It settled on discrediting the Argyll Ferries service at all costs – including factual accuracy.
Its third quarter results – January to March 2012, the worst quarter of the year in customer take up, was actually up on the previous quarter by 5.7%. This indicated substantial recovery that can be credited to two things:
- the company’s refitting of the boats, the impact of this on reliability and the crew’s acclimatisation to berthing the boats confidently at inappropriate linkspans in winter weather. (Both boats are built for side embarcation at pontoons, not stern entry at linkspans.)
- the growing realisation amongst users that the boats and the service were significantly better than painted in the hysterical allegations enthusiastically promoted by the fantasist campaigners.
It will be very interesting to see what pattern emerges from the usage figures for this service for the last quarter of its first year of operation, when they are released.
The reality is that, relatively speaking, Argyll Ferries has been doing rather well.
However, this is not the point.
8: The gulf between capacity and usage
We have shown above that, in total, Dunoon’s current ferry services together are able to deliver:
- 10,871,460 passengers a year, 5,435,730 in each direction
- 1,200,000 cars a year, 600,000 in each direction.
We have also shown above that the demand for these services in 2010, the most recent year’s figures available, was as follows:
- Passengers 2010: 1,813,000 (1,313,800 on Western ferries and 499,200 on Cowal Ferries)
- Cars 2010: 625,400 (564,000 on Western Ferries and 61,400 on Cowal Ferries)
- Commercial vehicles & buses 2010: 36,500 (33,000 on Western Ferries and 3,500 on Cowal Ferries)
If we compare demand with the available capacity today, we’re looking at an annual demand for 1,813,000 passenger movements against a total available capacity for 10,871,460. Of this, Western Ferries can deliver 6,000,000 a year and Argyll Ferries 4,871,460 a year,
This is a total overcapacity of 83.32% on passenger ferry movements .
It is also 69.78% overcapacity for Western Ferries alone; 62.68% overcapacity for Argyll Ferries alone; and 67.97% overcapacity for the former Cowal Ferries service alone.
Then there is an annual demand for 625,400 car movements – against an available capacity of 1,200,000. In 2010 there was also a demand for 36,500 movements of commercial vehicles and buses, each of which takes more deck space than a car.
This indicates that the vehicle shifting capacity delivered by Western Ferries, is capable of meeting demand and growth – with more capacity to come when its two new and judiciously larger boats come on stream.
This overall picture demonstrates that the Western Ferries Service alone could deliver the current demand, with plenty of room for growth.
Could the former Cowal Ferries service have delivered this level of demand alone?
The demand statistics for 2010 show 1,813,00o passengers, 625,400 cars and 36,500 commercial vehicles and buses carried between both services on the route.
The service operated by the former Cowal Ferries had a capacity to deliver:
- 5,662,068 passengers a year
- 399,836 cars a year
This service could have delivered alone the demand for annual passenger movements – with an overcapacity of 67.97%. It could not have delivered alone the demand for vehicle movements.
In practice, in 2010 it delivered 499,200 passengers; 61,400 cars; and 3,500 commercial vehicles and buses. The rest of the demand went to Western Ferries.
9: Winter weather passenger capacity on Argyll Ferries
While the figures we have used are the official certificated capacities of the boats used by each of the Gourock-Dunoon ferry services, common sense indicates that it is useful to be able to give a ‘dry passage’ passenger carrying capacity.
Subtracting the outside capacity of the two Argyll Ferries boats gives this service an average inside passenger capacity of 182 per sailing. More is possible but would be less pleasant. (At this point we should note that in the certificated capacity figures for the Argyll Flyer we have already discounted the additional 40 passengers she can carry standing outside. Given the usage figures for the route, this would only conceivably be useful in the odd crossing for the Cowal Games in September.)
This ‘inside’ passenger capacity for winter weather circumstances is 75% of certificated capacity on the Argyll Ferries boats.
So for the purposes of this exercise, we will look at the usage figures already given by the Transport Minister for Argyll Ferries’ two winter operation quarters and set those against this notional 75% passenger capacity in such weather.
The winter 26 week period includes the two days where the service does not sail (Christmas and New Year) and the Sunday service frequency sailed on Boxing Day.
So the 9,990 sailings involved, at 182 per sailing – 75% of normal capacity, gives a total passenger movement capacity of 1,818,180 over the two winter quarters.
The passenger usage figures for Argyll Ferries given by the Transport Minister for this period totalled 154,641.
This shows an overcapacity of 91.49%, underlining the fact that periods where inside accommodation is most necessary are also those of least overall usage – and against the background of over provision in the first place.
- Note 1: The summary article drawn from this ground work is here: Research reveals shock insights into reality of Dunoon ferry service provision
- Note 2: The Scottish Transport Statistics’ delivery figures for CalMac/Cowal Ferries service on the Gourock Dunoon route are here.
- Note 3: The Scottish Transport Statistics’ delivery figures for Western Ferries service on the Gourock Dunoon route are here.
- Note 4: Previous articles in this ongoing research and analysis include:
- Dunoon ferry services: facts and fancies
- More facts on Argyll Ferries’ Gourock Dunoon service