Baillie in new call for action over ferry

MSP Jackie Baillie is once again calling on SPT to take tough action over Clydelink’s handling of the Gourock to Kilcreggan ferry service.

A Freedom of Information request, lodged by Kilcreggan resident Harry Cathcart, has found that Clydelink, who operate the passenger service on behalf of SPT, has been fined over £2,500, mainly for issues surrounding returns of numbers etc, since taking over the tender in April 2012.

SPT has also issued Clydelink with eight penalty points following an inspection by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency which identified several failings with the day-to-day running of the service.

These included discrepancies in the accreditation of the ferry’s skipper.

Passengers have contacted Ms Baillie and Councillor George Freeman on numerous occasions regarding the reliability of the service, with many passengers being forced to use a replacement bus service last summer adding more than 90 minutes on to their travelling time in some instances.

Last week some passengers reported that they were unable to enter the cabin of the Island Princess’ replacement vessel, the Cailin Oir, because it was full.

As a result some passengers were forced to travel the route on the outer deck in freezing conditions.

Jackie Baillie said: “I am astonished that SPT have allowed this fiasco to continue this long without any real sign of substantial action.

“It is unacceptable to think that passengers are being asked to travel across the River Clyde in freezing conditions without access to a cabin.

“This is a lifeline route for many people, yet Clydelink continually fail to deliver a reliable service for passengers.

“The Island Princess was sent for repair over four months ago, with no sign of its return. It is time SPT took tough action and ensured that customers receive the service they deserve.”

Local ferry user, Harry Cathcart added: “Allowing for all of the upheaval which badly affected passengers using this vital economic lifeline into the summer and using a non compliant back up vessel under the contract conditions for now four months, it is perverse that SPT have been so generous in issuing the penalty points.”

The penalty points system is covered in SPT’s contract for the route here Attachment 3 – Conditions of Contract (Ferry)


  1. If they get another four points do they get a ban? Apologies for making light of what is a serious problem, but if you didn’t laugh you’d cry.

  2. More evidence, not that it is needed, that SPT completely ignored any of the recommendations in the Small Ferries Project report when commissioning this aquatic farce; a statutory body ignoring the fruits of a study into best practice for procuring ferry services paid for with your taxes and mine is an act of corporate negligence at best.

  3. That’s the most concerning bit delusionalbint – there is not a jot of accountability here. It is simply beyond belief how publicly and unashamedly SPT jhave stuck their head in the sand over this. If this was aviation and it was being run like this, there would be an outcry – the authorities would come down like a ton of bricks. What will it take for someone to act? Imagine a Transport Minister who says he cannot get involved? You couldn’t make it up, could you?!

    • This farce has exposed a terrifying level of incompetence compounded by SPT’s unprofessional standards and lack of accountability yet even our elected MSP’s best efforts are failing to make any great headway! The question now is what will it take for this to be addressed as the serious matter it is? Why are shoulders sloping and shrugging this off? Is it that the can of worms is so big that no one has the nerve to open it and address the very real issue that SPT is not competent and fit for purpose?

  4. The alarming and entirely unattractive prospect is that the only other likely state-provider is Argyll Ferries; that would be a case of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire while being run down by an LPG lorry and having an airliner filled with fireworks crashing into you’. Transport Scotland set a bad example when letting the contract for the Dunoon ferry and SPT copied them; it’s a woeful service, but the subsidy has been halved, so trebles all round!

    • Longer term however db, I believe the solution has to lie with the Dunoon service – combining this would make a huge amount of sense and give security to the Kilcreggan route – larger vessel, arguably more reliable service and would be possible to make it a decent one, with late night crossings. This would help Kilcreggan interact with it’s neighbours across the water much more easily and would boost the attractiveness through good connectivity.
      I agree the tender process for both was shocking, but although the contract ends seem a long time away, it’ll take them long enough to work out how to do it. If i remember correctly, they finish within a year of each other, which is ideal.

      The long game might not give us immediate results, but could help create a sustained future for the route.


  5. I agree, particularly if the study recommendations are followed and CMAL or similar order appropriate vessels for it; a triangular service has potential. Further developments from that are perhaps less likely, but calling at Helensburgh could be tried, but only with a realistic and reliable schedule; the 3 stops there a day combined with regular cancellation because of low tides and inadequate dredging was just managed decline. Add on the closure of the Gourock Lido for renovation(a major destination for passengers from Helensburgh) killed it dead. I have read of calls for including Blairmore pier as a stop, but I have doubts there would be enough custom.

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