SPT lacks the necessary maritime experience to manage an open water ferry service, according to Argyll and Bute Council.
The damning statement is made in the Lochgilphead-based authority’s response to the Scottish Government’s draft ferries plan – which says the service should be administered from Holyrood.
The report to the council’s executive committee, which met yesterday, acknowledges widespread concerns about the service since the change of operator.
Council officials note that the criteria applied by SPT were based solely on choosing the cheapest bid, with little effort to carry out proper checks on the ability to deliver the quality of service.
The add that SPT specified a 60 passenger capacity vessel, reduced from 96 in the previous contract, adding; “This has resulted in the likelihood of the replacement vessel being significantly smaller than the previous boat, with real concern as to whether she will be more weather limited than the previous vessel.”
The report then adds: “Kilcreggan Pier staff are to be dispensed with as a savings measure as the new contractor intends to use own resources to secure the vessel at Kilcreggan Pier. This may restrict the service in the often extreme weather at the exposed Kilcreggan Pier.”
Bizarrely, the report does not mention that the pier staff are employed by the council, and it is the council which is ‘dispensing with’ them.
it adds that the Helensburgh service has been dropped and the Sunday service retained for one year only, adding: “There will be tourism implications if it is finally axed, but SPT are not funded to consider tourism.”
it adds other issues, such as concerns over repair work at the ‘Kilcreggan steps’ at Gourock pier, and the demand by locals for a later ferry in the evening for commuters coming home from Glasgow.
And the report concludes: “The Kilcreggan – Gourock – Helensburgh ferry is a “lifeline” link that merits greater mention in the Scottish Ferries Draft Plan. There are considerable concerns as to the future of this ferry service.
“This is an open estuary crossing requiring oversight by a body with maritime expertise, and should therefore be treated the same as other ferry links and administered by the Scottish Government.”