An independent marine engineer has been given ‘carte blanche’ to carry out spot checks on the Kilcreggan to Gourock ferry service, it was revealed tonight.
But there was a furious response at Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council to reports of apparent threats by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) officials.
Robert MacIntyre, Argyll and Bute’s representative on the transport body, said that at a meeting at SPT last week he had told officials that recent problems were ‘not satisfactory in any way’.
But he said an official had countered that if residents were unhappy ‘they could put in for the contract themselves’, adding: “SPT don’t need to subsidise this ferry service, so be careful what you ask for.”
This sparked a furious response from community council secretary Murdo MacDonald, who said: “I regard that as a despicable comment. This ferry service has been completely disastrous since the current company took over, an abysmal service.
“For SPT to say that is disgraceful. That is not an appropriate response.”
Cllr MacIntyre said that problems which had seen the service reduced to 12 passengers per trip last month – rather than the contracted 60 – were not Clydelink’s fault.
“Part of the gearbox had been replaced,” he said.
“The MCA had to check this out before it could sail again, they seemingly took from the Tuesday to the Friday before they could check this.”
Community council chairman Nick Davies said Clydelink might need to develop a better relationship with the MCA, and suggested the priority should be preparing for the contract to be tendered again in 2017.
Cllr MacIntyre said a backup boat was not specified in the contract – Mr Davies said this should be a priority in future.
SPT’s engineer will in future be able to carry out spot checks on the Island Princess with no notice being given, Cllr MacIntyre told the meeting.
Ferry sailings were cancelled twice today because of ‘technical problems’.
Local MSP Jackie Baillie has campaigned for the service to be taken over by Transport Scotland and appeared to encounter intransigence from SPT, but Cllr MacIntyre said the opposite was the case, and SPT didn’t want to continue being responsible for it: “We have asked the Scottish Government to take this over – they don’t want it.”