Chaos and confusion surrounded Kilcreggan’s ferry service today (Thursday) as sailings were cancelled for several hours without any reason being given.
Trying in vain to keep to an ambitious temporary timetable – and the timetable seems due to change yet again next week – the Island Princess took to the water early this morning.
Despite claims by operators Clydelink that yesterday’s cancellations were caused by bad weather, the vessel appeared to have been painted in a way that could only have happened if it had been taken out of the water.
This apparent misinformation aside, things seemed to be looking up at 9.45 when the service’s Twitter feed stated that it was operating to normal timetable again.
Residents in Kilcreggan reported that a Martime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspection had taken place before then, and the boat again seemed permitted to carry the maximum of 60 passengers required under Clydelink’s contract with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT).
Soon however, passengers were once again left stranded, with no sailings from about 2pm onwards despite apparently calm conditions.
There were no announcements from Clydelink or SPT, and the plot thickened in mid-afternoon when it appeared that the Serco vessel MV Oronsay was operating as a relief boat – after one journey with three passengers aboard this experiment appeared to be abandoned however.
With commuters on both side of the Clyde expecting the service to be running on timetable, there was then no further announcement until 5.45pm when it was confirmed that sailings for the rest of the day were cancelled, with no reason given.
Ninety minutes later a further announcement indicated that problems with MCA certification were continuing – sailings tomorrow (Friday) will again be limited to 12 passengers until 9.30am.
So will usual service now be restored? Unfortunately not – a slightly different timetable will take effect on Monday (March 16), according to SPT’s website, although the ferry service’s own website shows no change. Again, no reason has been given for the change.
When Clydelink took over the Kilcreggan to Gourock route in April 2012 assurances were made by SPT that a back-up boat would provide breakdown cover, and that SPT had ‘evidenced’ that boat’s existence.
It was later stated that this was not a contractual requirement however, while Freedom of Information requests lasting several months finally ended in SPT conceding to Scotland’s information commissioner that it has never possessed any such evidence.
SPT’s operations committee will tomorrow consider a report showing that passenger numbers on the service in January were 35% lower than for the same period last year.
There has been no response from SPT or Clydelink to requests for comments and clarification concerning the confusing events of the last two days; this story will be updated if any information is received from either party.
Update: SPT’s website has now (Friday morning) been amended to show the new timetable coming into effect on April 6, not March 16.