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Arran Ferry Action Group (AFAG) is back in the driving seat after taking a break during the pandemic.
The group had noted that it seemed pointless to lobby when the stock response was pandemic-related, but now feels that the time is right to resume and has submitted a short article for the Banner.
Arran’s ferries — Where are they now?
Necessary restrictions since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic have inevitably had consequences for ferry-related issues.
While additional delays to construction may be understandable, any lack of cooperation or communication from those charged with oversight of major projects is not so easily excused.
From the start, much has been made of the laudable commitment to secure 300 jobs at Ferguson Marine, despite the significantly higher cost of UK manufacture.
Ironically, we understand that much of the current work is being carried out by eastern Europeans brought in by the turnaround director.
If the new ferry is completed when now promised, this is likely to be some time before Ardrossan harbour is able to accommodate it. What happens then? Nobody seems willing to say.
Those responsible for specifying, contracting, purchasing and overseeing the construction of the country’s ferry infrastructure, namely CalMac, CMAL and Transport Scotland, are answerable to the Scottish Government.
Following the ferry construction fiasco at Ferguson Marine, which saw the shipyard taken into government ownership, a government inquiry has identified catastrophic failures of oversight and management by all parties, but those responsible are denying it.
Such belligerence simply won’t do. The public deserves better and AFAG, which submitted evidence to the inquiry, will demand that mistakes are acknowledged and not repeated.
Only after lengthy Freedom of Information procedures was Transport Scotland ordered to provide the group with key documents.
A similar attitude pervades local government too, as seen at Ardrossan.
Requests at an executive level to North Ayrshire Council for sight of proposals and plans now go unanswered.
Since its formation back in 2019, AFAG has pleaded to be a part of the Ardrossan Task Force.
Its intentions have always been to contribute constructive ideas to avoid further expensive mistakes that hinder, rather than improve ferry resilience and reliability.
Despite representing the majority of island residents as well as many visitors, its involvement has been blocked at all levels, making it impossible for it to hold key people to account. It is still not clear whether funding is in place for this redevelopment.
One is bound to ask why are these people so reluctant to engage with any serious attempt to ensure that money is invested sensibly for the good of everyone?
This cavalier attitude extends further. Contrary to many statements, it now seems likely that Arran’s ferry service will divert to Troon during the Ardrossan harbour development, due to Ardrossan becoming unsafe or unsuitable.
With significant implications for connections and timetables, why is AFAG not being told about this? The group believes islanders have the right to know these things that will affect everyone’s lives.
At least there is one bit of good news. The linkspan at Gourock has been repaired and is about to re-enter service, providing a port of refuge when Ardrossan and Troon cannot be used. CalMac just needs to make use of it to improve the resilience of the island’s lifeline service at a stroke. But will they?