MSP Jackie Baillie has criticised Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), saying it has failed to offer an immediate and reasonable solution to the Kilcreggan ferry ‘fiasco’.
Ms Baillie met with SPT’s chief executive, Gordon Maclennan, and other representatives today (Wednesday), along with users of the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry service and Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil.
In what she described afterwards as a heated exchange, the Dumbarton MSP and Mr McNeil challenged SPT over their duty of care to passengers who they said been continually let down by Clydelink’s operation of the service since their takeover on April 1.
Ms Baillie told the officials: “There are occasions when it genuinely feels as if I have had the wool pulled over my eyes.
“We are all collectively being taken for a ride.”
And Mr McNeil said SPT’s stance that certification and other issues were the concern of the MCA was ‘convenient’, saying: “It’s like Nelson’s eye.”
SPT officers told the meeting that crew’s qualifications were for the operator to determine and for the MCA to approve, and since Clydelink had submitted the lowest bid they had to be given the contract.
Mr Maclennan said that Kilcreggan’s pier – a listed building which is 115 years old – and the ‘Kilcreggan steps’ at Gourock were not really suitable for the type of vessel now being used.
Ms Baillie raised concerns over the safety of the vessel, after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that an internal investigation is underway to determine if Clydelink broke the law by failing to obtain appropriate certification and insurance since taking over the ferry route.
Jackie said afterwards:“A lot of important issues were discussed at this meeting, but there is still some way to go before a proper solution is found. The key concerns that remain are about safety and reliability and I will be pushing SPT for further reassurances in this regard.
“SPT assured us that Clydelink will shortly be providing a replacement vessel to replace the Island Princess when it is out of service or undergoing upgrade works.
“Whilst this is welcome, it is essential that SPT discuss with the Maritime Coastguard Agency the question of safety certification for the pilot and crew, and monitoring of sailings, where the vessel has departed with the use of only one engine.
“Clydelink is clearly in breach of contract and I would expect SPT, at the very least, to issue penalties, and if the service does not make an immediate improvement, to find a replacement operator.
“I am clear that SPT don’t want to run a ferry service and would prefer that this should transfer to Transport Scotland. Until that happens, they have a duty of care and they need to step up to the plate and provide my constituents with a safe and reliable service.”