MSP Jackie Baillie has again called for SPT to take action over Kilcreggan’s ferry service, this time after an incident when the boat seemed to try leaving the village pier – despite still being tied to it.
She called on Strathclyde Partnership for Transport “to get a grip” over Clydelink’s handling of the ferry following ‘yet another fiasco’, this time on the 07.15 service yesterday (Thursday).
The Dumbarton MSP said passengers travelling on the Island Princess were left stunned as the skipper attempted to set sail from Kilcreggan pier whilst still tethered to the wooden frame.
SPT moved to defend their handling of the route, with a spokesperson countering: “We are aware of passenger comments which are being widely reported out of context. SPT takes the safety of passengers very seriously.
“We understand that bad weather at the time caused the boat to drift and the operator assured us that the rope was deliberately left in place as an added security measure. As the engine wasn’t engaged at the time that was entirely appropriate. The service then continued as usual.”
Earlier she had said: “Enough is enough. SPT really need to get a grip of this situation.
“Since SPT awarded the tender to Clyde link in April it has been one thing after another blighting this service.
“I would urge SPT to call for a full investigation into this matter. It is clear that awarding a contract based on lowest cost does not prove for a reliable and fully functional service.
“It is clear from FOI responses that passengers have received that Clydelink have failed to adhere to the majority of their contract.
“Passengers were promised a new 60-seater vessel, but instead are being ferried from Gourock to Kilcreggan in a 16-year-old boat which has broken down on several occasions.
“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.
“SPT has a duty of care and they need to step up to the plate and provide my constituents with a safe and reliable service.”
Speaking about the latest ferry incident, one local resident said: “The boat was actually stopped by the rope. By the shouts of the crew it appeared that there was little control of the boat. After several minutes we moved back to the pier where the rope was removed. Is this proper seamanship?”
Passengers wrote to SPT and MSPs after the incident, and Mark Aikman of Clydelink responded to them by saying the master and crew had acted competently:
- The gangway was retrieved and secured after passenger boarding had been completed.
- The stern mooring line was released, with the loose end retained onboard to place onto the pier at the same time as the spring line (Normal practice), this can be seen as the loose rope in the image that you have provided.
- Just after the stern mooring line was released a gust of wind caught the vessel and she drifted from the pier, attached by her spring line to the pier.
- The master of the vessel decided to return the vessel alongside in order to ensure that the mooring lines were placed safely on the pier.
- The vessel’s crew have confirmed that the time involved from the vessel drifting from the pier to returning alongside was around 45 seconds.
On May 30 Ms Baillie, her fellow MSP Duncan McNeil and ferry users met SPT to outline their concerns; they were told that the back-up boat Cailin Oir would be given its passenger certificate by the MCA within ‘a few days’ so that it could take over while the Island Princess was upgraded, but there is still no sign of this happening.
Today (Friday) no ferries were running on the route because of high winds, with the situation due to be reviewed at 3pm.