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The Scottish government minister responsible for the ferries gave The Arran Banner a cast iron assurance this week that the new Arran ferry will be completed at the Ferguson yard in Port Glasgow.
There were renewed reports last weekend that the possibility of moving the MV Glen Sannox for completion had previously been discussed, but on a visit to Arran on Monday islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said it would be ‘too expensive’ to move the contract to another yard at this stage.
The £97 million contract is for a new ferry to service the Brodick to Ardrossan route, expected to come into service next autumn, and a second vessel for the Uig Triangle.
He added: ‘We want to assist the Ferguson yard with this contract to allow the company compete for future work not just at home but internationally.’
Mr Wheelhouse, who only took over responsibility for Scottish ferries in September, said he also expected word soon from Peel Ports on the technical issues surrounding the Irish Berth at Ardrossan habour which has been out of use for some time. He said the government expected a report on the technical issues involved, and how long they make take to repair, shortly. The berth is expected to be used when the Arran berth is realigned as part of the harbioyr redevelopment work.
Mr Wheelhouse said he had come to Arran to listen to the concerns of the Arran Ferry Committee, with whom he had a two hour meeting, and to update them on the plans for a more robust and resilient ferry service following a summer of persistent problems on the Arran and Islay routes.
Mr Wheelhouse said the government were keen to take a more pro-active role in the ongoing maintenance of the ageing fleet of vessels – by indentifying potential problems before they arise. Repairs should be carried out more rapidly, he said, with the time taken to source spare parts reduced, using a Scottish supply chain where possible.
However, he accepted it was not ideal, that all dry dock work had to be carried out in Liverpool. ‘That is not to criticise Camel Laird in any way, but it would be good to see a Scottish yard undertaking the work.’
Mr Wheelhouse also the government was keen to see improvements in the current booking system, which, he said, CalMac had inherited.
‘People are used to getting automated travel information if there are problems on the trains and buses and that is something we would like to see on the ferries as well,’ he added.
Ferry committee chairman Iain Thomson said afterwards it had been a worthwhile meeting adding that, he felt, the minister had listened to their concerns.
Mr Wheelhouse with Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson and members of the ferry committee. 01_B46wheelhouse01