Glasgow & West Scotland

MSP calls for Kilcreggan ferry contract to end early

Island Princess docking at Greenock Image copyright Gerard Ward

MSP Jackie Baillie is calling for the early withdrawal of the publicly-funded Kilcreggan ferry contract following 10 days without a service.

The last sailing to Gourock was on Monday 12 February with the operator, Clydelink, blaming electrical problems.

Its contract with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport ends in July.

Ms Baillie has written to the chairman of SPT asking him to "do everything possible" to replace the current operator earlier than planned.

In her letter to Councillor Martin Bartos, she said: "Unless action is taken to resolve the situation, there will be no service to deliver by the time the new contract comes into effect."

Clyde Marine is due to take over the contract on Sunday 15 July having become the only company to submit a bid.

'Level of incompetence'

In the last year, Clydelink has been forced to withdraw service on both its Kilcreggan and Renfrew routes following technical problems and failed inspections.

Ms Baillie said: "Clydelink never cease to amaze me with the sheer level of incompetence.

"Maritime and Coastguard Agency inspectors have found so many faults with the Island Princess over the past year that it raises serious concerns over whether Clydelink is a fit and proper company to operate a passenger ferry service.

"Now that SPT has already appointed a new operator, I see no reason why the start date cannot be brought forward."

Clydelink have been unavailable for comment, with all telephone lines diverting to a recorded message.

The only way passengers have found out about disruption has been via the company's Twitter account.

Rona Grierson works in Glasgow and uses the ferry daily to commute to the office.

When the ferry isn't running, she drives for 30 minutes to Helensburgh in order to get a train, with the entire journey taking nearly two hours.

Mrs Grierson said her journey to work was affected 25 times last year due to technical issues.

"As well as the inconvenience of the additional time, its the cost of fuel by driving 30 minutes each way," she said.

"I have previously asked SPT for a refund on my Zone Card but all they would offer was a discount off my next purchase.

"I now work from home one day a week as the ferry service is so unreliable."

Image copyright Dave Forbes
Image caption The Island Princess during normal service leaving James Watt Dock in Greenock

In the letter to SPT, Ms Baillie also questioned the operator's claim that electrical problems were the reason for disruption.

"I understand from local sources that the Island Princess is in fact out of service because it is undergoing a pre-planned annual inspection by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency," she said.

"I also understand that several deficiencies have been found which are more serious than minor electrical issues, including faults below the waterline."

The local community recorded a satirical song to highlight longstanding problems with the ferry service.

Mrs Grierson is involved in the user group formed to maintain pressure on SPT and the operator while promoting the service to the community.

She said: "The communities concern is that Clydelink leave the service off and leave us with nothing until July.

"The fact that the service has been so unreliable has already made a big impact on passenger numbers.

"We are concerned that the Scottish government or SPT could withdraw funding for the service because it is no longer seen as viable."

SPT had previously approached Transport Scotland proposing that the government agency take over the running of the service.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said: "The responsibility for the Gourock-Kilcreggan ferry service lies with SPT, but we are well aware of the recent significant disruption and understand the frustrations of the passengers that rely on this link.

"Discussions between SPT and Transport Scotland around a potential transfer of responsibility are continuing".

Ms Baillie added: "It is becoming increasingly clear that passengers cannot wait until summer for the service to improve."

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