‘A few’ is always a very difficult phrase to pin down – does it mean a handful? Less than a dozen? As far as SPT is concerned, it means anything up to 50 – and still counting.
On May 30 a whole battalion of senior officials from SPT met two MSPs and three people who use the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry – an increasingly challenging task since SPT gave the contract to Clydelink, with effect, appropriately, from April Fool’s Day.
The big news from SPT’s most senior staff that day was that, ‘in a few days’, the long-awaited back-up boat ‘Cailin Oir’ would be presented to the MCA so it could be certified for use as a passenger vessel.
The very next day Councillor David Wilson, who had chaired that meeting, was pictured in the Greenock Telegraph astride the troubled ferry like a latter-day Viking warrior, welcoming the fact that the back-up boat would be in service – ‘in a few days’; this would mean the Island Princess, which was brought up from the south coast of England in March, could be refitted so that more passengers would be able to sit inside, rather than getting soaked and frozen every time it rains.
That was 49 days ago and still there is no sign of the Cailin Oir on the Clyde. Inquiries to SPT about what is happening draw no response.
A lot can happen in ‘a few days’ – in this case:
- An MCA report, released after an FOI request, revealed that on April 13 there had been a total of 14 faults found on the Island Princess which had to be rectified before she was allowed to sail again
- MSP Jackie Baillie told SPT to ‘get a grip’
- MP Alan Reid said responsibility for the ferry should be taken away from SPT
- The Island Princess apparently tried to sail away from Kilcreggan pier despite still being attached to it
- Argyll and Bute Council decided it did not need consent to deface Kilcreggan pier, a B-listed building, by installing ugly barriers to ‘marshal’ ferry passengers
One thing has not happened though – the appearance of the promised back-up boat.
It now seems inevitable that at some point SPT will have ‘a few’ questions to answer about this whole sorry affair.