Only one formal meeting to review the Klcreggan to Gourock ferry service has been held in the last three years – despite a litany of problems with the service.
Ironically, within hours of the document being released under Freedom of Information legislation today (Monday) the service was cancelled yet again.
At 4.15pm Clydelink announced the Island Princess was not sailing because of ‘a technical fault’, once again leaving angry commuters stranded on both sides of the Clyde.
It is not clear if the boat will be sailing tomorrow morning – this story will be updated if any further announcement is made.
The service is subsidised by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), which promised that a back-up boat would be available when Clydelink took over the contract in April 2012.
The conditions of the ferry contract state that service review meetings will be held between the contractor and SPT ‘as and when required’ to discuss the performance of the service.
But just one such meeting has ever been held – on March 16 this year, following days of confusing messages and service cancellations.
The contract conditions state that the boat must be licensed and equipped as required by statute, and that crew must also have the legally required licences.
Both of these conditions have been breached previously, with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency intervening because of issues both with qualifications and the boat itself, but no formal meeting was held to address the problems.
Minutes of last month’s meeting shed some light on the events of March 11 and 12, when services were frequently cancelled or reduced to just 12 passengers.
Mark Aikman of Clydelink told Ronnie Park and Alex Scott of SPT that in February the MCA had given a 30-day extension to the boat’s licence after highlighting ‘some items that required rectification and clearance’.
This extension expired on March 11 but the MCA did not issue the new certificate until the 13th.
The minutes confirm that passengers had complained about inaccurate information being issued by Clydelink – it had been claimed that the cancellations were due to bad weather but the sea appeared very calm – and the minutes add:
It was agreed that Mr Aikman should ensure that any future inspections of that nature should be arranged more in advance of the due date.
In relation to the particular complaint referring to the later journeys on March 12, Clydelink had in good faith advised intending passengers that the service had been restored because it had chartered a vessel from Serco but, in the event, it had not been able to use the pier at Kilcreggan. He indicated that he had contacted Argyll and Bute Council to discuss the matter.
After further discussion… Mr Aikman undertook to review his processes to ensure that any information supplied to passengers in relation to service status was as accurate and timely as possible.