On the record – appeal to politicians over Kilcreggan ferry, and their responses to date

Email from Jamie Black to local politicians:

I am contacting you yet again regarding the future of the Kilcreggan Ferry. You may recall I have contacted you previously when the service was under threat and some two years later, that threat has again raised its head.

As well as being an occasional pleasure user of the ferry, I have friends who depend on this service as part of their everyday lives. My friends live in Gourock with their two children. The children’s grandparents live in Kilcreggan, and the ferry is a lifeline for them, allowing Gran and Grandpda to visit and help with childcare, and for the grand children to visit their grandparents. Given that Mum does not drive, without the ferry service, it would be impossible to visit. A journey to Kilcreggan by car takes nearly 1hour 30minutes. A journey by alternative public transport takes, according to Traveline Scotland, 2hours 57minutes, and involves taking a train, a bus, a train and another bus. The return journey is similar, meaning to visit grandparents would result in nearly 6 hours for a return trip.

Add into this mix the fact that grandpa works in Dunoon and uses the ferry to commute to Gourock and travel onwards, and you find that the future of his job is in jeopardy as a 3hr+ daily commute is unsustainable.

The impact on this family alone of losing this ferry service would be life changing,never mind other people who rely on it to visit hospitals, shops and other essential services.

As you are aware, the route is subsidised by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport. When this route went to tender, there were a number of promises and stipulations made, including availability of replacement boats in event of breakdown and suitably qualified operators. Over the years there have been numerous incidents on the route, however thankfully, to date, none has resulted in loss of life or injury. One of the most worrying is that often, the route has been operated without qualified personnel or in a boat that did not (and may not currently have – please see the local press thelochsidepress.com) suitable MCA certification.

You will be aware that SPT are always looking to ensure ‘best value for taxpayers money’, and my concern, which I believe is well founded, is that SPT may consider cutting this route altogether either in the near future, or by not re-tendering when the current contract expires. This situation would be completely unacceptable.

I am therefore contacting you, along with other elected members and public officials, to ask the following:

  • Do you agree that the Kilcreggan/Gourock Ferry service is lifeline for those that use it?
  • Do you support the continued operation of this service and use of public money to support the route and the communities it serves?
  • If you support the route, what action can and will you take to help safeguard the long term future of the route?

I will be completely transparent and advise that I believe the future of this route is of the utmost importance to the people who use it – its loss would alter their way of life and have a significant negative affect on the people and communities in the surrounding area. As I believe the public interest in this case is significant, I may share your response with the local press and people affected by any future decisions on the route.

I look forward to your response and hope very much that you agree that this route needs to be protected.

Response from Jackie Baillie, MSP for the Dumbarton constituency:

You can absolutely count on my support for the continuation of the service. I do believe it represents a lifeline service for my constituents, not least to provide access hospital services but also to the college and to employment.

I am in favour of the service continuing to be provided with public subsidy by SPT. You will be aware that my preference in the past was to have responsibility transfer to the Scottish Government but unfortunately there was no such agreement between the government and SPT.

Finally, I will write to SPT on the basis of your letter to establish what their intentions are in respect of the service.

Response from Inverclyde Cllr David Wilson, a board member of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport:

I agree with your sentiments. I  can assure you that Councillor MacIntyre from Argyll and myself will fight to maintain the service which incidentally is under no current threat.

SPT senior officers are displeased with this week’s interruptions. The ship is now certificated. I attended at 6.30 on Thursday to witness only 12 passengers being allowed per trip. Not good.

Response from Stuart McMillan, list/regional MSP for the West of Scotland:

I do believe the ferry service is a lifeline primarily for the reasons you provided. There is an undeniable fact also that there are economic benefits for the service to be operational with the number of people who live in Inverclyde and who work north of the river. This, for me, is a strong argument for the service to remain.

I do support public funds being used to help fund the service. I also agree that Best Value should always be sought. For many, Best Value has been confused with being ‘the Cheapest’. This is not the case.

Finally, I will write to SPT indicating my support for the service and urging them to maintain it. I have no issue with the route being re-tendered at regular intervals but I would expect that when re-tendering does occur, then the results and promises of the previous of the existing service provider are always examined before awarding the next contract.

I hope this is helpful and I will send you a copy of my correspondence to SPT.

Inverclyde Councillor Ronnie Ahlfield:

!00 % support guaranteed Jamie.

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