New, bigger boats stipulated by Scottish Government and a longer contract period

SNP MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has welcomed the announcement that the tender process for the Gourock-Dunoon route is underway, a move signalled by the issue of the contract notice today.

Mr Russell was reacting to the answer to a Parliamentary Question he lodged yesterday asking when the tender process would start.

Commenting Mr Russell said: “This is good news for the route and those who use it.  The Scottish Government has honoured its promise to secure a contract period of up to 12 years as opposed to the previous six year period, which will give any bidder a much better chance of recouping their investment.

The Transport Minister has also  announced today that the service will require two 40 metre vessels, which will be a considerable improvement on the vessels presently in use.  The service will also operate every half hour at peak times.

Of course new larger boats may create the potential for a successful tender for a vehicle and passenger service and to assist that the method by which the costs for the subsidized part of that – the passenger service – are calculated has also been clarified, pending EU approval. That will be helpful, I am sure, but as I indicated in my statement to the Public Meeting last week I concur with those who are now indicating that whilst they continue to support a vehicle service on the town centre to town centre route, if there is no successful vehicle tender on this occasion all our efforts, nationally and locally, should be put into ensuring the best possible passenger service for the 12 year period without any other distraction.

I am however disappointed by one detail of the contract notice, namely the lack of progress on the vexed question of pier charges on either side of the Clyde. I would urge CMAL and Argyll & Bute Council to reconsider their present stance on this issue as it could deter bidders and prevent progress with the creation of a new, higher quality, service.

We will now have to await a response from companies that have an interest in tendering but we also know that the new service will be in place next summer, which is also good news for the area though the new boats might take a bit longer to build.”