The Gourock-Dunoon ferry link becomes a passenger-only service under a £10.6 million six-year contract awarded by the Scottish Government to present operator Argyll Ferries, a subsidiary of David MacBrayne Limited. Argyll Ferries are seen as providing the best value for tax payers through an improved service connecting with co-ordinated rail links at Gourock. Effective from 30 June, the new contract brings extended service hours, with a larger and faster vessel, Argyll Flyer, supported by existing craft Ali Cat, giving departures every 30 minutes at peak times.
Built in France in 2001, the 244-passenger Argyll Flyer has been operating from Rossaveal to Inisheer for Ireland’s Aran Island Ferries, and after entering service as Queen of Aran II was renamed Banrion Chomamara in 2007. The 1999-built Ali Cat, owned by Solent and Wight Line Cruises, has been on the run providing morning and evening peak passenger support since 2002 under a contract between Red Funnel and Cal Mac.
With a car ferry no longer required, 16 crew posts are expected to go, a decision that has angered maritime union RMT, general secretary Bob Crow commenting: ‘Gourock-Dunoon was a strung-out exercise driven by bureaucrats at the European Union. Cal Mac also played a totally disgraceful role, keeping key information from the workforce when they knew all along they were only interested in a passenger service.’
The Scottish Government decision effectively leaves vehicle traffic to the parallel McInroy’s Point-Hunter’s Quay service of another short-listed bidder, Western Ferries. Now, as part of its ongoing Ferry Review, the Scottish Government is also considering the creation of a post of Ferry Regulator to monitor non-government and non-local authority ferry services.