Political pressure from all sides is mounting for immediate action to resolve Kilcreggan’s chaotic ferry service.
Two MSPs have called for Clydelink’s contract to be terminated by SPT – and a senior official at SPT has admitted the service has been ‘very poor’ and said that ‘very serious’ action will be taken against the operator.
The link between Kilcreggan and Gourock has been beset by even more problems than usual since SPT’s renewed contract with Clydelink came into effect on April 1, with the Island Princess being detained after MAC inspectors found 30 problems with the boat and crew, then breaking down and being out of action for ten days.
On Thursday the service was cancelled again with no reason being given – it is thought that there was a shortage of crew.
Dumbarton constituency MSP Jackie Baillie said the latest incident was ‘the final straw’.
“Ferry users have been let down time and time again by Clydelink and it’s time for them to be stripped of the contract,” added the Labour MSP.
“Just days after the service was finally restored having been out of action for a week and a half, the ferry is cancelled again without any reasons given and absolutely no updates on when it will sail again.
“These are the actions of a failing company which is clearly incapable of providing a basic service. This is a shoddy way to treat passengers who rely on the service to get to work, visit family or attend hospital appointments.”
She said she would meet SPT this week and call for ‘direct intervention’ to protect the service.
West of Scotland list MSP Maurice Corry (Conservative) said the service had become unreliable and was causing ‘severe inconvenience’.
“My team and I, along with Cllr Barbara Morgan, have been in regular correspondence with SPT to find a solution to this and now have pressed for the termination of the current contract,” he added.
“ This is a publicly funded service which is not meeting the terms of the contract. The public are the number one priority here, they should receive the level of service that has been agreed and funded.”
“I have contacted the office of Humza Yousaf to press for Transport Scotland to take the contract over, and for it to remain as an individual service so it will not become a shadow of the larger Gourock to Dunoon service creating new problems.”
Chris McEleny, an SNP member of Inverclyde Council, wrote to SPT and was told by its assistant chief executive Eric Stewart that the latest problem was ‘entirely down to the operator, without external regulatory of accidental internvention’.
Mr Stewart’s email added: “We will be taking action against the operator for this and with the build-up of penalties it will be very serious, the most serious being cancellation. That meeting is scheduled for next week.”
A freedom of information request by this website last month revealed that Clydelink had already incurred 20 penalty points within 12 months – if 30 points are incurred with a year, or 20 points within 12 weeks, SPT can terminate the contract.
Mr Stewart’s email added that SPT found it ‘very difficult to communicate with this operator’ but hinted that no more money would be available to move the contract to another company: “This service is operated on the basis of it being comparable to a bus service, to provide socially necessary link, however that is against a fixed budget with the Gourock-Kilcreggan service competing with bus service requests from many communities across our local area.”
These financial constraints seemed not to apply in 2012, when SPT officials wanted to award Clydelink a grant of £93,000 of public funds to build a new vessel, after the company had been awarded the contract.
It was argued here on Friday that the service should be taken away from SPT and run by central government as a mater of urgency.