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Fair weather only service
The recent spell of wintry weather has emphasised the weaknesses and unreliability of the Arran ferry service.
There should be a prefix on the timetable emphasising ‘fair weather only service’.
Over the years we have become acclimatised to this situation (it will pass). The future has always been a ‘Jam tomorrow’ attitude. Whether it be new ferries (this will be the third), new terminals (such as Brodick), better fendering, better berth alignment etc.
Result is the same – long term failure (it wisn’y me!). The negativity of CMAL and ultimately Transport Scotland is predictable.
Crossing the firth is not the problem – other services operate in similar weather. The difficulties centre on lack of proper weather protection at the terminals.
Modern car ferries (unlike passenger ferries of old) need properly sheltered terminals to operate reliably. The answer is known, but not accepted, because the ‘elephant in the room’ as it were, is seen as expensive. There is no PR kudos in breakwaters – properly done, they just work!
We are all familiar with experience elsewhere of offshore rock breakwaters (not elaborate stone constructions of old) but simple rock construction (wildlife sanctuaries).
Design and execution of such work would need to be undertaken by organisations with a track record (due diligence). Probably Scandinavian or Dutch origin, with expertise in rock handling.
Existing terminals such as Ardrossan and Brodick would then be protected against conditions which presently create such difficulty.
Time for crucial decisions
Coming out of lockdown in Scotland and with the impending Scottish government elections in May, we find ourselves at a point where crucial decisions upon the future of Arran’s ferries must soon be made. In the post-pandemic world financial resources will be very strained.
Perhaps the way forward could be to recover the Arran ferry service as it used to operate, as described in the AFAG article [see pages four and five] and avoid the massive further investment into Ardrossan and Troon harbours, solely for the sake of the Glen Sannox.
This could involve provision of two highly manoeuvrable medium-sized ferries of existing designs, compatible with both the existing Ardrossan and Gourock harbours, only upgrading the passenger access and link-span mechanisms plus the Whiteford pier fenders at Ardrossan and the link-span at Brodick ‘old’ pier for use in bad easterly swell conditions.
The Glen Sannox would continue to completion for use on the Uig triangle and Hull 802 scrapped.
Finally, the recommendations of the RECC should be adopted by the Scottish government so that the mistakes made in arriving at the current dreadfully unreliable and unresilient Scottish ferry situation can be avoided.
Consideration for Hunterston
I notice from the latest issue of the Banner that it has been suggested that the decision to retain Ardrossan as the mainland port for the CalMac ferry should be re-considered.
As a former shipbuilder and native of Arran, I wholly concur. I have, as many will have noted, been in print over this subject in recent times. The lack of suitability, both in the design of the vessel and Ardrossan as a safe harbour, is extremely likely to be satisfactory. Glen Sannox is unlikely to meet its contract speed, due to the very high block coefficient (underwater shape) necessary to meet cargo carrying capacity, which in turn will not lead to a sea-kindly ship.
I may have missed it, but has the former ore terminal at Hunterston been considered? Despite the recent incident there, it ticks many of the boxes of ideal requirements. Deep sheltered water, rail head and car parking. (Remember the days when the steamer as a matter of course, was re-routed in wintertime to Fairlie, stopping at Keppel pier on the way?)
With only a modest increase in speed over that of the Caledonian Isles, the crossing could be achieved in the same time as to Ardrossan.
Former director and general manager,
Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd,
Maths test for ministers
Maths test for Primary 6/7 and Scottish government ministers – in line with current education policy ministers, answers may be moderated upwards to avoid embarrassment.
This is MV Alfred, Pentland Ferries’ newest vessel. Alfred, with a capacity for 98 cars, was built at a cost of £17 million. If a comparable CalMac ferry would cost circa £55 million how many ‘Alfreds’ could you obtain for the cost of one CalMac ferry. Answers to the nearest complete vessel please.
CMAL is excused from answering as it is not expected to understand the question.
J Patrick Maclean,