Ferry cancelled again – and new questions over level of scrutiny

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.

Minutes of the meeting are here Attachment  and a copy of the contract is here Conditions of Contract Ferry








  1. The terms and conditions are interesting but without the service specification they are of less use. Yet again I was stranded in Gourock and had to pay for a train to Helensburgh and tomorrow I will need to get a bus to Kilcreggen to either get a ferry or to retrieve my vehicle, what use was my 10 journey ticket today SPT? When will SPT get their act together and remember that they are here to serve the passengers interest not as they have done by turning a blind eye and letting the contractor away with a poor level of service. It’s also about time that the Scottish Government got their finger out and pass this contract to Transport Scotland and treat it as a life line service.

    • In a freedom of information report of a meeting between Transport Scotland, Argyll & Bute Council & SPT on 10th October 2013 – Argyll & Bute Council confirmed that they were supportive of the proposition for a lifeline service for the Kilcreggan-Gourock ferry service, but it was not for the Council to put the lifeline case forward to the Scottish Government – also – It was agreed following round the table discussion that the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry service will continue to be operated by SPT as a socially necessary service and that an approach to transfer responsibility to the Scottish Government will not be made by SPT or Argyll & Bute Council.
      Many have tried to get this change in our ferry service but to no avail!!!

      • If we have to accept that no one is willing to change the service then we must press for the service level to be monitored and acted upon when it falls short of service users expectations and what is contracted to be undertaken for SPT. Complaints to the service provider will only fall on deaf ears so I would ask those who use the service to shame SPT into action. When public money is being wasted in this way and other services are being cut across the country it is wrong to waste money on a failing service provider. SPT need to get a move on and start to use the contract to withhold payments in order to drive service improvements.

        • In March in a reply to Jamie Black appealing to MP’s etc, I suggested that a petition be raised. I mentioned that relatives living in a village elsewhere in Scotland, had a problem that multiple letters had resulted in nothing being done. A committee was formed, a petition raised, it went online and eventually the required result happened. As a ‘wrinkly’ who no longer uses the ferry on a regular basis, I am not the person to organise this, but would be happy help in some way.

    • It is a ridiculous situation to find that SPT seem to be unaccountable for their actions or even lack of them. Having been taken in by spin and false promises by Clydelink they have compounded their poor judgement by ‘covering’ this decision when the company has patently failed so badly to provide the service it has been awarded. It seems the Clydelink problem will never be tackled as long as SPT are covering their own erm backs

  2. It is worth noting a reversal of the actions taken in January 2013. In January this year the Directorship of Jill Pearson (Mrs Mark Aikman) was terminated and Mark Aikman was reappointed as sole Director however Mr Aikman holds no shares in the company, the sum total of £100 in shares are held by Alexander Aikman, the Director’s father.

  3. The sooner the ferry is removed from the hands of these useless clowns and rolled up in the CHFS tender the better; mediocre as CalMac are they look like Elon Musk and SpaceX next to these bozos. If not we stand to lose the ferry altogether as the remaining regular users will vanish along with the reliability of the service.

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