11th hour plea as doubts remain over new ferry

SPT is being asked to put Clyde Marine on standby in case the new operator for Kilcreggan’s ferry service cannot start in April.

Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council heard on Tuesday night that plans for a new, purpose-built boat had been scrapped.

Instead Clydelink plan to use the Island Princess, currently in Lymington on the south coast of England.

The packed meeting heard that the new boat is only 13 metres long and can only reach a speed of seven knots – the Seabus currently does nine knots while crossing the river.

“It is substantially smaller all round. There are three vessels of that type in this country but they are all for summer use in calmer waters,” said Gerry Gaffney,  representing  the workers who rely on the ferry to get to Coulport.

“Only 40 passengers are under cover, with 60 on the open deck.  I will need to tell my guys that they will have to draw lots on who will get cold tonight!”

He added that the Island princess would have to be certified for use on the Clyde by the MCA and Clydeport.

“It is my opinion that that vessel will not be sailing on April 1,” he added.

Community council chairman Nick Davies said he was concerned that the boat had still not been seen in Scottish waters, and Argyll and Bute Council would conduct a health and safety risk assessment with the new operator at the pier when the replacement boat arrives.

Councillor George Freeman added: “This whole process has been an absolute shambles.

“I discovered through FOI requests that it has been going on for about 10 months now.

“SPT are saying that there was no requirement for a new boat, but the decision was based on a new vessel being provided, so we are arguing that the decision no longer stands – it is flawed.”

He had asked if the current provider’s contract could be extended if there was a problem but we was told that that was not an option.

The community council however decided that the concerns were so great, with local people needing the ferry to reach work and colleges, that they would ask SPT for Clyde Marine to be put on standby until it is clear that the new service will run.

Councillor Billy Petrie said that as the Provost he would speak to Argyll and Bute’s chief executive the next day and relay all the points made.

He added that as the chair of Argyll, the Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and the Trossachs Tourist Board, the pier staff were needed for the Waverley to call in the summer and that losing the Waverley would be a major blow to the village

In a bizarre twist to this saga last week, SPT’s operations committee were asked to give Clydelink over £90,000 towards the cost of the new boat – but this idea was dropped.

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