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Proposals for Gourock-Dunoon ferry route

21/09/2005

A commercially run ferry service for the vital Gourock to Dunoon route moved a step closer today.

Transport Minister Tavish Scott announced that within the next few weeks the Executive will advertise for operators to run the service on a commercial basis, with no operating or timetable restrictions imposed.

If an operator can be found, then the subsidised CalMac service would be withdrawn, with CalMac able to bid for the route on a non-subsidy basis.

Mr Scott said:

"I made clear that as soon as the Scottish Parliament agreed the issue of tendering of the Clyde and Hebrides lifeline ferry services, we would outline our proposals for the Gourock - Dunoon service.

"This ferry service is of vital importance to both the communities it serves and to people visiting the area.

"I hope there will be wide interest from potential operators and that an operator is in place by early 2007.

"However if a commercial operator does not come forward, we will take forward options for delivering a subsidised service on the route."

The Executive is seeking to find an operator to provide a commercial ferry service from Dunoon Pier to Gourock Pier.

There are currently two operators providing ferry services from the Cowal peninsula to Inverclyde. CalMac currently operate vehicle and passenger services from Dunoon Pier to Gourock Pier. The CalMac services operate with restrictions on their timetable to avoid disproportionately affecting traffic on the competing privately owned Western Ferries service. Western Ferries operate a vehicle and passenger ferry service from Hunter's Quay to McInroy's Point.

This announcement is based on proposals from local groups who believe a Dunoon Pier to Gourock Pier service can be provided on a commercial basis.

In response to a Prior Information Notice (PIN) issued earlier this year by the Executive, nine companies/organisations expressed an interest in running the service.

Interested operators will be evaluated on a number of criteria including:

  • Experience of providing similar services
  • Financial robustness
  • Proposals for service
  • Proposed fares
  • Agreement on harbour dues
  • Sustainability and robustness of the operator's proposals

The Executive has appointed maritime technical consultants to assist with the tendering process and tender evaluation.

If an operator can be found to run this commercial service then CalMac would be instructed to withdraw the subsidised Gourock - Dunoon service. This would leave the way open for a new operator to run a commercial service. Ministers' have indicated that CalMac is free to bid to run a commercial service provided it can demonstrate its ability to operate the service without subsidy.

The Executive intend to advertise this opportunity within the next few weeks. Assessment of Expressions of Interest from potential operator's would then follow. Thereafter the assessment of proposals would lead to selection of a preferred operator. Provided an acceptable operator is found the new ferry operator could start on the route in early 2007.

Ministers have made it clear that if no suitable operator is found then they will bring forward proposals to tender for a subsidised service.