Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to hand control of the Gourock to Kilcreggan ferry service to Transport Scotland.
The call has come from Cardwell Bay and Greenock West community councillors, who have also backed pleas for a more robust vessel to serve the Dunoon route.
Irene Pollard and Jamie Black, on behalf of the council, say that the Argyll Ferries from Dunoon and Clydelink service from Kilcreggan – and subsidised by SPT – should be addressed simultaneously. They write:
“As you will doubtless know, these services experience serious reliability issues, particularly where weather conditions are concerned.
“Whilst there is specific focus on the Dunoon route, you may be aware that over the last year, the Kilcreggan Ferry has suffered major issues, many of which have been reported to us by our residents, whilst others have been reported in the media.
“Although some may be attributable to ‘bedding in’, others are wholly unacceptable.
“Issues such as the services being suspended on instruction of the Maritime Coastguard Agency due to safety concerns, gangplanks falling overboard and vessels drifting away from the pier when loading are simply intolerable.
“In additional to operational issues, the vessel is of such a small size that at peak times, passengers must stand in the open, exposed to the elements.”
Ms Sturgeon is conducting a review of the Dunoon service, and the community councillors say this is an opportunity to address both routes for the medium and long term, rather than dealing with immediate problems, suggesting:
- That the Scottish Government/Argyll Ferries procure a replacement vessel for the Dunoon passenger route, ensuring the process is rigorous enough to result in a vessel more robust than the current Ali Cat or Argyll Flyer.
- That the replacement vessel should be the ‘main’ operating vessel and capable of operating safely in more severe weather than the current vessels. Ali Cat should be withdrawn as soon as reasonably possible.
- That the Scottish Government formally ‘adopt’ the Kilcreggan route and responsibility be handed to Transport Scotland in a similar manner to the Dunoon route.
- That the Kilcreggan and Dunoon routes be amalgamated and tendered as one – the contracts end within one year of each other.
- That the Kilcreggan route receive a service level similar to Dunoon in terms of operating hours, although accepting a reduced frequency until such time as passenger numbers support a similar level to Dunoon.
- That no changes are permitted to Kilcreggan, Gourock or Dunoon Piers that may limit larger vessels from operating (e.g. installation of pontoons).
Both routes have been plagued by problems over the last 12 months, with passengers complaining that the boats brought into service are not able to cope with sea conditions in the Clyde.
The refurbished Island Princess is now running between Kilcreggan and Gourock, following SPT’s decision to award the contract to Clydelnk from April 1 last year, while the Ali Cat and Argyll Flyer run the Dunoon service which is now for passengers only.
SPT and Argyll and Bute councillors have both said that pontoons at all three piers are the best solution, but a feasibility study dated last June – and revealed here in December – has still not been considered by members.
It recommends a £2m programme to build pontoons at Dunoon and Kilcreggan, but says that costs for Gourock would be prohibitive.