Herald Letters 24th November

Mr Gordon Ross of Western Ferries makes several claims (Letters, November 22) regarding the Gourock-Dunoon ferry route First, he says: "Western Ferries has never sought a monopoly on the route." In fact, a monopoly on this route is exactly what Western was seeking in discussions with the Scottish Executive in the "User Charter" meetings, information on which was made available under FOI legislation. At one meeting, on November 9, 2004, the executive asked whether Western's charter proposal for Gourock-Dunoon was dependent upon Western becoming the sole operator. Western responded that if it were not the "sole provider" there would be no need for the charter. The Scottish Executive "accepted" Western's view that "it saw the charter as more appropriate for a sole-operator situation".
If this still needs further spelling out, for "sole operator" on the route, read "monopoly" on the route.
Secondly, Mr Ross says: "We . . . are committed to investing in the community's future, at no cost to the taxpayer." Western was awarded a £400,000 grant by Argyll and Islands Enterprise in July for its ferry terminal near Dunoon - this represents a significant cost to the taxpayer.
Thirdly, Mr Ross says: "A monopoly is not a possibility as there will always be a road option."
The Gourock-Dunoon ferries act as the transport link across the Clyde estuary just as the Forth bridges act as the transport link across the Forth estuary. What Mr Ross does not mention is that his "road option" would involve a detour of 82 miles. In distance terms that would be similar to a "road option" for the Forth Road Bridge detouring through Glasgow.
Mr Ross has assiduously cultivated users of these ferry services, assuring them that their interests would be safe in his hands if he became sole car-ferry operator across the Clyde. Now they will know that if they do not like his fares and services when he becomes sole operator, they will be told they can always use his rival - the Rest and be Thankful.
Just when those on the east are being encouraged to plan for a second road bridge across the Forth, those on the west are being told to expect a single monopoly car-ferry service across the Clyde. A tale of two estuaries, and one which the competition authorities should look at as a matter of urgency.

Professor Neil Kay,