A study into multi-milllion pound plans for pontoons for ferries at Kilcreggan, Gourock and Dunoon is not being revealed by Argyll and Bute Council.
Commissioned in December 2011, the feasibility study has been cited in recent weeks by SPT and by an Argyll and Bute councillor as a solution to ongoing problems with the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry service
But an Argyll and Bute spokesperson said: “The report cannot be released since it remains incomplete at this time. Further work has been commissioned to establish the cost benefits to the three harbours considered.”
They added: “The initial study was dedicated to reviewing the potential for pontoons at Dunoon and Gourock but SPT requested that the scope be expanded to include Kilcreggan,” adding that costs would also be met by bodies including the Scottish Government, SPT, Argyll Ferries and CMAL.
At a meeting with MSPs and ferry users in May SPT chief executive Gordon Maclennan said ‘berthing arrangements’ were not suitable for small vessels at Gourock and Kilcreggan piers – the latter has been in use for 115 years.
He said that Argyll and Bute had commissioned a feasibility study for pontoons at Gourock, Dunoon and Kilcreggan and discussions with architects were underway, adding that SPT were supporting the study – but he did not say that SPT had asked for Kilcreggan to be included.
Glasgow engineering and architects firm Arch Henderson is conducting the study; previous projects include linkspans for Western Ferries at Gourock and Hunter’s Quay, as well as the new breakwater and ferry terminal at Dunoon ferries – this project ran from 2003-2005 and cost £5.5m, but was for roll-on roll-off ferries, which no longer run there.
The Dunoon to Gourock ferry service was taken over by Argyll ferries in 2011, running boats for passengers only which have been the focus of enormous local controversy.
In December the council issued a statement saying short to medium term options included ‘improvements in embarkation / disembarkation arrangements which will include the provision of berthing pontoons’, adding: “This process would require options to be developed and examined in terms of technical and operational feasibility, deliverability and cost.
“The target timescale for this would be April 2012, but will be dependent upon the Project and Resource Plan developed by the Scottish Government’s Ferries Division.”
No news was announced in April, although on May 5 Alex Salmond wrote to David Cameron about ‘shovel-ready’ investment projects that could begin immediately; second on the list was ‘Gourock-Dunoon pontoons’ costing £2m – but there was no mention of Kilcreggan.
This mysterious tale raises several questions:
- At what stage was Kilcreggan added to the feasibility study into pontoons for Gourock and Kilcreggan? Was this after the contract for the Kilcreggan ferry was awarded to Clydelink?
- Was it SPT who suggested pontoons should be built at Kilcreggan?
- Why has a study which was commissioned in December still not been completed in July?
- There is considerable scepticism locally about whether pontoons at Kilcreggan would survive stormy weather – will a breakwater be built?
- How much will be spent on the feasibility study, let alone the pontoons themselves?
- Is it really the case that problems with ferries on the Clyde, and in this case Kilcreggan, are due to the piers rather than the boats or operators?
- Will Kilcreggan’s pier continue to be manned until the feasibility study is published and a decision made?
Despite the repeated public references in early 2012, none of the publicly-funded bodies concerned has ever made the plans available otherwise.