Gourock to Dunoon service is not ferry good, claims Liberal MSP
By Lucy Ashton
Many people from West Dunbartonshire use the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service as a shortcut to Argyll.
And they have been receiving a poor service for years now, it was claimed by Liberal MSP Mike Rumbles in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.
He said: “In a written answer that was published yesterday, the Government made no mention of any new vessels for the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service.
“Indeed, no attempt was made to give any assurance to long-suffering passengers that they might have any prospect of receiving an adequate service.
“Passengers have had to put up with a record level of cancellations and repeated delays on the route. When will the Scottish Government provide a decent service on the route?”
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied the service was not up to scratch.
She said: “The Scottish Government is committed to providing not just decent but good services on all our ferry routes, including Dunoon to Gourock.
“In my previous ministerial roles, I was closely involved with the Dunoon to Gourock ferry service.
“I will ask the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity [Michael Matheson] to write to the member specifically on the current situation.
“And I am sure that he would be happy to meet the member and constituents to discuss fully any of their concerns.”
I hadn’t realised the Scottish Government provided the Western Ferries service, shown in your photo. I thought it was privately owned and very reliable. Perhaps I’m wrong; if not you should change the photo and apologise.
I did check the picture library Gillian. No mention was made of the company responsible. I sought out pictures of “the Gourock-Dunoon” ferry and the one published and another of a similar ferry battling 90 mph gales came up. It was this one. If you do discover that we were wrong then please contact us and we will apologise and change the picture. Thanks for getting in touch. Bill Heaney
You are wrong Bill. The picture you’ve used, without crediting it to anyone, is a Western Ferries vessel; Western Ferries is a private company which is no no way answerable to the Scottish Government. Try looking for Argyll Ferries – that is a subsidiary of David MacBrayne, wholly owned by the Scottish Government. The Argyll Ferries service has been very problematic; Western Ferries are very, very reliable, so the picture is very misleading. If you’re going to make up daft boat-related names for ‘reporters’ I think it behoves you to try checking facts about boats.
No company names were mentioned in the following exchange in the Holyrood parliament during FMQs: I did check to see which ferries ran between Gourock and Dunoon. I even found a photograph of one operating that day. It was a Western Ferries vessel. Lucy Ashton is no “daft name. Have you ever read Sir Walter Scott’s works? Here is the exchange in full between Mike Rumbles and the First Minister: Ferry Services (Gourock to Dunoon)
Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD):
In a written answer that was published yesterday, the Government made no mention of any new vessels for the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service. Indeed, no attempt was made to give any assurance to long-suffering passengers that they might have any prospect of receiving an adequate service. Passengers have had to put up with a record level of cancellations and repeated delays on the route. When will the Scottish Government provide a decent service on the route?
The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon):
The Scottish Government is committed to providing not just decent but good services on all our ferry routes, including Dunoon to Gourock. In my previous ministerial roles, I was closely involved with the Dunoon to Gourock ferry service. I will ask the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity to write to the member specifically on the current situation, and I am sure that he would be happy to meet the member and constituents to discuss fully any of their concerns.
In addition, I came across this, which states clearly that Westrn Ferries run that service: rexit boost for Gourock to Dunoon ferry firm
By Scott Wright
Deputy Business Editor
Gordon Ross, managing director, Western Ferries
Gordon Ross, managing director, Western Ferries
THE company which operates the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service in the Firth of Clyde has reported a rise in passenger numbers because of the weak pound making Scotland more attractive as a tourism destination.
The managing director of Western Ferries (Clyde) said the ferry operator has benefited in line with the broader tourism sector across Scotland since the Brexit vote in June 2016, which was immediately followed by a collapse in the value of sterling.
Gordon Ross was commenting as privately-owned Western reported a profit before tax of £2.5 million for the year ended March 21, down from £2.6m last time. The period saw the company make nearly 32,000 sailings between the towns, which it said was the highest by route in Scotland and higher than it had anticipated. Its ferries sailed more frequently than scheduled during peak periods.
Mr Ross said Western Ferries’ performance has given the company the confidence to invest in major quayside infrastructure projects to expand its berthing facilities on either side of its Firth of Clyde route.
The company is investing to add new berthing structures and link spans at the McInroy’s Point terminal in Gourock, which are on track to complete this month, with similar work then due to begin at Hunter’s Quay in Dunoon. A late summer target has been set to complete the work at Hunter’s Quay. After that, Western Ferries will then proceed with plans to upgrade its overnight berthing facility at Kilmun.
Mr Ross said: “The accounts to March 2017 represent another positive performance for Western Ferries and off the back of these results, it has given us the confidence to invest in our shoreside infrastructure.
“With one-third of the investment programme nearing completion, it is estimated that our entire investment will be in the region of £6m.
“These investments will both continue and safeguard the two berthing options at each end of our service and therein the operational resilience, flexibility and robustness our customers have come to rely on.”
inRead invented by Teads
The accounts show turnover at Western, chaired by Alistair Ross, dipped by £200,000 to £7.7m over the period. Lower maintenance spending resulted in operating expenditure dropping to £5.1m from £5.3m.
While the period covered by the accounts had been a “good year” for Western Ferries, Mr Ross observed that the collapse in the pound since the Brexit vote had brought an indirect benefit to the service further to year-end.
“Carrying numbers for the year to March 2017 were much in line with previous years, however there is no doubt that the increase in carryings over the summer 2017 can be attributed to a growth in domestic and foreign visitors to Cowal,” he said.
“This may be partly explained by current exchange rates but also a much-improved tourist offering in Dunoon and Cowal. In particular, the events organised by the local BIDS (Business Improvement Districts which have benefited many local businesses.”
Meanwhile, Western Ferries is awaiting publication by Transport Scotland of the delayed tender for the state-subsidised Gourock to Dunoon passenger only route, currently run by CalMac subsidiary Argyll Ferries. It is understood that Western may enter the bidding process once the tender details are published.
The company is also watching closely to see whether RET (road equivalent tariff) will be introduced to the route.
RET, a distance-based fares restructure, is understood to have driven a huge increase in passenger numbers on routes such as Ardrossan to the Isle of Arran in recent years.
Why on earth would the issue of supplying new boats for Western Ferries, a privately-owned firm, be something that government ministers are questioned about? Two organisations run ferries between Gourock and Dunoon; they are in a sense rivals. One (Argyll Ferries) is the responsibility of the government. The other is very much a private firm, so the tax[aye doesn’t buy its boats. Clearly you weren’t aware of this, so you illustrated a story which mentioned poor performance of one organisation with a picture of a boat belonging to another – just check their twitter feeds to see the difference in reliability. You are aware of it now. Use Google for five minutes and you’ll see they are very separate, while Western actually sails from Hunter’s Quay rather than Dunoon. Here is the Argyll Ferries website – Youy’ll see the boats have a very different livery: https://www.argyllferries.co.uk/
And here is the Western Ferries website: http://www.western-ferries.co.uk/
As for Lucy Ashton, the daftness relates not to Scott but to the practice of using false names.
Who are you regulated by, Bill?
You really are gilding the lily here. The parliamentary reference was to the Gourock-Dunoon service, which is Western, and not to Gourock-Hunter’s Quay. If the First Minister’s researchers have not made that clear then I suggest she asks them to dig deeper next time. If I were you and was aggrieved to the extent you appear to be then I suggest you write to Ms Sturgeon. And Mr Rumbles. As for using using nommes de plume, then that has been going on for centuries. Let me instance Crossbencher, Francis Gay, Pat Roller, Mungo Mack, the Hon Man. Even our greatest writers are not who they they are. It appears you support censorship and object to press freedom. I am responsible only to me. I own this platform and edit it. I I am regulated by by the Law of Scotland. And, as my prerogative as editor, I declare this correspondence is now closed.
Was there a technical problem which prevented the appearance of my last comment, perhaps because it included links?
Cancel that and apologies, I see the comment is there now.
And just to clarify matters, the MSP referred to the ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon, which is Western, and not to the ferry which runs between Gourock and Hunter’s Quay. Please feel free to comment on The Democrat at any time. We welcome reader participation. Best wishes and have a Happy Christmas. Look out for the ferry on top of the tree!
Sorry Bill, but you;re simply wrong. I note that you ignored my question about regulation.
This is the very last word on this. I told you above that I am regulated by Scots Law.
This is all a bit odd – a row about a picture which doesn’t seem to exist. Has it been removed by any chance? Because Mr H was wrong all along? If so, I think an apology was promised?
A, c’mon. You’re making a cruise ship out of a dinghy here. Happy Christmas.
A few people on the Argyll Ferries sailing home last night had a good laugh at this – I see the misleading picture has now mysteriously disappeared so has Dear Bill finally admitted he’s wrong? Is he a member of the NUJ and does he follow their code of practice? I do hope so and may contact them if ths comment fails to appear. Time for that apologyy at last?
I am ferry sorry for using the picture but you have to admit the story was totally accurate. There was a man who sailed away to build a boat and it sank – JP Donleavy, The Ginger Man.
You don’t really care, do you?
And you haven’t the courage to put your head above the parapet. Anonymity is the mortal enemy of credibility. This time, this correspondence is most definitely closed.