‘Decade of decline’ on ferry route is ended, says councillor

Ten years of decline on the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry service have been arrested, a Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has said.

Cllr David Wilson made the claim during an interview on Inverclyde Radio recently, saying that switching to Clydelink rather than Cldye Marine had saved the public £200,000 a year.

“Given that we have saved that money, the ferry is operating with the same sort of numbers of people,” he said.

“In fact numbers frankly have increased this year compared to three or four years ago so we are quite pleased about that.”

SPT’s own figures would seem to contradict that claim though; in 2009/10 there were  71,600 journeys and the current moving annual total for 2013/14 is 54,023.

Councillor Wilson (right) was on the first sailing of the Island Princess from Kilcreggan last year with Mark Aikman of Clydelink and MP Alan Reid.
Councillor Wilson (right) was on the first sailing of the Island Princess from Kilcreggan last year with Mark Aikman of Clydelink and MP Alan Reid.

This year’s figures for May and June did show steep increases compared to 2012, a is shown by the table at the end of this story, but during that period the service was beset by a series of cancellations caused by breakdowns and safety crackdowns, described in the interview by Cllr Wilson as ‘teething problems’.

Asked why the figures had improved, he said: “I think it’s increased because of increased reliability.  I think that people are conscious that it’s there, people are conscious that it’s almost a ‘use it or lose it’ situation.”

He described the ferry as ‘an essential social service’ which he expcted SPT would continue to support, but said he shared SNP MSP Stuart MacMIllan’s doubts about it being given lifeline status.

“It has been the opinion of the Scottish Government that it is not lifeline up to now, and it is really up to Argyll and Bute Council the community council at Cove and Kilcreggan and the councillors and MSPs on that side of the water to argue for it to be lifeline, so really basically I agree with what Stuart Macmillan has said,” he added.

Surprisingly, he said that the pontoons which were talked about last year by SPT as a solution to problem with ferries at Kilcreggan, Dunoon and Gourock, would be ones which had been used previously by the Renfrew ferry.

“There were thoughts at one time that we would bring the pontoons, and in discussions with Calmac have pontoons placed, particularly at Dunoon to allow better access,” he said.

This seems to mean that there have been two alternative options for pontoons to be used – the multi-million pound project for new work, which has never been discussed publicly despite a feasibility study being completed in June 2012 by consultants Arch Henderson, and this proposal for pontoons which had already been used much further up the river to be redeployed.

The full interview, during which Cllr Wilson also responds to questions from Cardwell Bay and Greenock West Community Council, is available here.

The latest passenger figures reported to SPT's operations committee.
The latest passenger figures reported to SPT’s operations committee.


  1. Cllr Wilson only opens his mouth to change whichever foot is on duty; “We’ve fobbed off the populace with an inferior service and saved money! Tea and medals(on expenses of course) all round!”. It’s still an egregiously noisy bathtoy and will get cancelled whenever the wind blows this winter, just like last winter. Could the small rise in usage not be down to the start of an economic recovery rather than a feverishly imagined improvement in service? Perish the thought of agreeing with George Osborne but it’s a more plausible argument than suggesting the ferry service is improved to any extent. A closer analysis of the numbers with the local weather might give a clearer indication of why numbers were up in 2010 and this year, rather than some unsubstantiated puff from the councillor. We could also do with the phrase ‘lifeline services’ being banned; it’s meaningless political flimflam, a ferry service and its holistic social and economic benefits is either worth the cost or it isn’t, there’s no other factor.

    • Well said. Councillor Wilson omitted to state the obvious regarding the Sunday service namely that the FIRST sailing is at 12.40 from Kilcreggan with the last return sailing at 16.55 which allows for a maximum time of 4 hours off the Peninsula. For a family of four the costs will be prohibitive for such a short trip which would exclude visiting Glasgow or Largs.

      Councillor Wilson is to check up on the commitment to heat the saloon but overlooks the fact that on the busier sailings during the working week some passengers have to remain in the open in all weathers. So much for his platitudes/mantra as the mouthpiece for SPT.

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