Opinion – the £20,000 red herring

The pontoons feasibility study has been long awaited across the Clyde for many months now.

SPT tried to portray it as the panacea for problems with Kilcreggan’s ferry link to Gourock, while the Scottish Government has long been demanding investment in it as a ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure project.

The reality though, is rather different.

The £20,000 study fails to notice that Kilcreggan’s pier was built in the 19th century and is a listed building.

Argyll and Bute Council have so far got away with installing ugly barriers – likened to cattle pens by some passengers – on the historic pier without even asking itself  for formal consent.

But it’s hard to imagine that any planners could approve such a huge, ugly structure next to the village’s most iconic structure, and if they did, few locals would share the consultants’ confidence that it will survive the waves and tides on that shore.

Even if all those obstacles could be overcome though, the pontoons would effectively be useless since the study says that building anything at Gourock would be prohibitively expensive.

When Clydelink sailinsg are cancelled because of weather, it is normally strong winds at Gourock that are cited – so if the study’s proposals went ahead, £500,000 of public money would be spent without making the ferry service much more reliable.

The plans for Dunoon have predictably attracted most of the speculation, although since the figure of £2m has regularly been bandied about we can only assume that Kilcreggan would have been included as well.

There is still enormous pressure for a car ferry service to be reinstated at Dunoon, and the Herald  has speculated that constituency MSP Mike Russell would be ‘electoral toast’ if he supported pontoons instead.

The Cowal Courier speculated that the pontoons study would be unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon when she visited Dunoon last month, only for the visit to be cancelled because, ironically,  ferries were cancelled and roads closed by bad weather.

‘Shovel-ready’? Hardly. Before any more money is wasted, our local and national politicians need to realize that the problem is not our piers, which have been doing service for many decades, but small, light boats which are just not suited to these waters.

To view the feasibility study, clink on the link below:

dg study_20121213150410


  1. As a resident of Cove, and wheelchair user, I corresponded with SPT over the tendering process and the replacement ferry. The tender specifications said all the right things about mobility access (pushchairs, walking difficulties, wheelchair use), but, as with many things, the temptation of making £200+k savings was just too much and the specifications were ignored in various respects including accessibility. Wthin the correspondence, SPT mentioned that future use of pontoons was being considered. The purpose of my making this comment is the final sentence in your news article, where you say that the problem is not our piers, but the unsuitability of small light boats in local waters. Whilst the boat problem is undoubtedly true – and the coming winter weather is about to prove that over and over again – please be aware that there is a problem for wheelchair users and others with mobility issues connected with the piers, which pontoons would deal with.

    • I seem to recall a rather large admiralty pier at Cove rd Gourock albeit a bit rundown which could be used for ferries with a bit of upgrade.
      Historicallyu Cardwell BAy was used for small hovercraft as well so there are options.

  2. Fair point Andrew, and I remember a rather bogus argument about access being made in favour of the Seabus. How is current access at Gourock though? If this carefully hidden study says pontoons there are too expensive, is there any point even thinkng about Kilcreggan? Happy to be corrected on that.
    Can’t help wondering though how long certain people have known about this and chosen to carry on giving a false impression that it’s a magic cure all,

    • Just to be clear, the ‘bogus’ point was aimed at SPT etc a few years ago, not users then or now.

  3. Absolutely no point in doing anything to improve accessat Kilcreggan, without also fixing any access problemsGourock. I’m not being flippant – it’s a serious issue – but, as I’ve never got further than the end of the pier at Kilcreggan, I don’t know what access is possible at Gourock. But, for those who know that landing, the question is what difference the tides make to the slope/gradient of the ramp between boat and pier, and whether a pontoon or some other measure is best to counteract that variation between high tide and low tide. I also understand that there are lots of steps in all circumstances at the Gourock pier, so that would also be an issue for wheelchair users, pushchair pushers and people with mobility difficulties. We got someone to the moon more than 40 years ago now, Virgin Space is about to launch commercial flights into the stratosphere, but getting an accessible ferry service from Kilcreggan to Gourock (or even just a regular service on inaccessible ferries) …………………….etc, etc

    • Andrew, Wdtttk, db: I’ve made the feasibility study online – click on the link at the end of this story.

  4. I find it pretty depressing that a report like this makes no mention of the fact the whole Gourock seafront is due to be redeveloped at huge cost in the next few years, or that there may be cost saving available from combining this activity with construction of a durable ferry quay that is pleasing to behold and accessible by all. The feeble offering of a pontoon placed exactly where the existing boarding steps are is risible.

  5. Something not addressed by the study, presumably for cost reasons, is that JONSWAP wave height analysis does not take account of how deep the water is; like most piers Kilcreggan is in shallow water and shallow water causes waves to become taller in height and shorter in wavelength. JONSWAP was devised to help design North Sea oilrigs, and I do not think that it is appropriate to use on its own to either design coastal installations or carry out feasibility studies for them.

  6. Having taken the time to read through the study my initial reaction is that it’s a cheap snow job; ABC have asked for the cheapest possible study, it shows and as a consequence it’s not worth a pitcher of warm spit. It’s alright as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far.

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