‘Here we go again’ – that was the inevitable reaction today (Monday) when the ferry between Kilcreggan and Gourock was suspended ‘for technical reasons’.
That phrase brought back bad memories for the people who rely on the service – of the Island Princess being stopped from sailing by the MCA being its crew weren’t qualified, because its engine had failed, because the MCA had found 14 faults which needed to be fixed before it was allowed to sail again…
In fact the problems with the Cailin Oir – which had come into service eight days previously – were fixed after about three hours, so commuters who had heard about the problems via Clydelink’s Twitter feed could get home as planned.
But the real issue is that only six months after SPT awarded the subsidised contract to Clydelink, rather than Clyde Marine who had operated the route for more than 30 years, confidence has sunk below sea level on both sides of the river.
The new purpose-built boat which was promised when Clydelink took over the route never appeared, and after several months the press release announcing it quietly disappeared from SPT’s website.
Instead the 16 year-old Island Princess was brought up from Lymington and pressed straight into service on April 1.
Never mind, SPT’s senior management told MSPs and ferry users at a meeting on May 30, the back-up boat the Cailin Oir wa being prepared for MCA certification and would be in service ‘in a few days’ so that the Island Princess could be refurbished – no more sitting on bare boards, with only a few passengers under cover from the elements.
And the very next day a ‘full steam ahead’ picture story appeared in the Greenock Telegraph, with SPT board member David Wilson ‘welcoming a second boat’.
More than 100 days later this finally happened, together with a statement from Clydelink in the Helensburgh Advertiser: “The Island Princess is not in need of repairs… however she does have her annual refit commencing late September that has been planned since the start of the contract. The scheduled refit will include a number of passenger comfort enhancements and it is anticipated to take no more than six weeks.”
Separated by four months, the statements from SPT and Clydelink paint very different pictures and they cannot both have been true – if the refit had always been planned for October,
It seems unlikely that SPT failed to understand what their operator told them in May, or that the Advertiser’s report was inaccurate, so there are only three likely interpretations – the public have been misled by SPT, by Clydelink or by both.