Solve both ferry problems together, Sturgeon told

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Ali Cat should be withdrawn as soon as reasonably possible.
  3. That the Scottish Government formally ‘adopt’ the Kilcreggan route and responsibility be handed to Transport Scotland in a similar manner to the Dunoon route.
  4. That the Kilcreggan and Dunoon routes be amalgamated and tendered as one – the contracts end within one year of each other.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


  1. This could be great news for us, especially point 6, pontoons would look awful and may not work effectively (at Kilcreggan). A more suitable vessel is required (in my opinion). I DO NOT use the ferry anymore, as to be frank, I don’t know if I will get back – fact. If others are also not using it for the same reason, it will be lost. Now I accept ‘my actions’ are adding to the problem, but I need reliability.

  2. Combining the two routes and a procuring a new vessel is not going to solve the problems , as it is not going to have enough time to serve both routes to satsify the Dunoonites. Part of the problem may be that MV Argyle Flyer is constrained to operate a slow speed , as the Gourock yacht club members objected to her wash when operating at her designed speed. It is well known that most vessels do not handle well when operating outside their designed range.

    • I’ve never heard that RGYC objected to it; was there mention of that in the papers? Clydeport have had a speed limit of 12 knots on the inner firth since they were created from the Clyde Navigation Trust, so while Clydeport sticks with a luddite ‘computer says no’ attitude it’s a moot point. There’s plenty of precedent for faster operation without reducing safety; the Thames Clippers have dispensation to operate at up to 30 knots were sight lines and wake considerations allow, despite the Thames having far more traffic and being a narrow and convoluted water way. The Clyde has neither of these problems yet we are stuck with a 12 knot limit?

  3. I recently read a report on the subject of Gourock/Dunoon/Kilcreggan ferries that was commissioned by Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise; one of its main recommendations is that a considerable subsidy reduction could be made by combining the Kilcreggan and Dunoon services into one integrated service.

    • This is the most sensible solution to our ferry fiasco, the problems being (a) will the Scottish Government support the plan, (b) the contracts don’t end for another four years, and (c) at least two ferries would be needed. On the plus side, the Feasibility Study into plans to build pontoons at Dunoon, Gourock & Kilcreggan piers ‘has still not been considered by members’! It beggars belief that any organization in their right minds would even consider spending millions (from the public purse) building pontoons to accommodate ferries that are totally unsuitable for the job that they are meant to do!

      • The Island Princess is said to have been ‘refurbished’ but I would say that it has merely been ‘tarted up’! Gordon Maclennan has stated that it ‘has had many passenger enhancements’ but as far as I can see the only enhancements are some cheap vinyl cushions on the original cramped and uncomfortable seating. They have provided half a dozen extra seats in the cabin and removed some seats from the deck, the companion way has been improved and the boat has been painted, but it hardly constitutes a refurbishment or having ‘many passenger enhancements’ but after all it is only the Kilcreggan/Gourock service and less and less people are using it, so what does it matter!

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