CalMac Gourock-Dunoon transferred to "Cowal
No consultation, no warning, and no announcement.
CalMac staff Gourock-Dunoon have been told via a letter dated 7th March
that with effect from 1st April (no, it is not a joke), they and CalMac's
Gourock-Dunoon business will be transferred to a new company "Cowal
Ferries Ltd" which is "ultimately owned" by Scottish
CalMac staff were totally unaware of the changes until they received
the letter. Also, no mention of this plan was made when I recently met
the Minister of Transport with members of parliament to discuss plans
The short list for the (ultimately failed) tender was announced July
31st 2006 (V-ships, CalMac and Western) and the Invitation to Tender
was issued then.
However, I have found out by Internet search that Cowal
Ferries had been set up as limited company at almost exactly the same
time, beginning August 2006 (see
page 1046 of the Edinburgh Gazette).
So the Executive must have known/intended at that point that whatever
happened, CalMac would not be running that service later this year,
it would be Cowal Ferries Ltd. So why put in a company (CalMac) for
the tender that you know you intend to pull CalMac out of the service,
It is consistent with the CalMac chairman Peter Timms who recently
said in the Herald he "doesn't hold out much hope for CalMac
continuing to run car ferries between Gourock and Dunoon, hinting at
a passenger-only operation".
It will be easier to close down (or downgrade to passenger only) after
the May elections a small service run by a company no-one has heard
of, compared to headlines that would follow the abandoning of CalMac's
flagship route if it was still flagged as a CalMac service.
But the most bizarre part of the letter is the first paragraph where
"As you are aware, we are required by the Scottish Executive as
part of the process whereby the provision of the Clyde and Hebridean
Ferry Services has been put out to tender, to separate the operation
of ferry services operating between Gourock and Dunoon. The proposal
for the Gourock-Dunoon services is covered in the separate Tender document
issued by the Scottish Executive"
What are they talking about? The "proposal for the Gourock-Dunoon
services" that was "covered in the separate tender document
by the Scottish Executive" was for an unsubsidised service and
that tender failed completely because of the restrictions placed on
it by the Executive.
Unless this has been kept from the public (and the parliamentarians
who met the Minister last month) there is presently no tender proposal
for Gourock-Dunoon on the table.
More generally, the real headline today is "The Executive makes
CalMac abandon Gourock-Dunoon and leaves the population of Cowal and
Inverclyde to a Western Ferries monopoly".
And anyone who thinks this is a one-off restricted to Cowal is mistaken,
what has happened to the public service here can be, and will be, repeated
over much of the network given the restrictions placed on the main CalMac
Neil Kay 13th March 2007
Addendum 13th March PM. A Companies House check
shows Cowal Ferries Ltd was incorporated as a private company on the
9th August 2006, Its Registered Office was changed in February 2007
from an Aberdeen address to The Ferry Terminal Gourock. There are three
directors, Alexander Lynch, Lawrie Sinclair (who is also MD of Calmac)
and Peter Timms (whio is also Chairman of CalMac). No list of shareholders
were provided, on the basis of the letter sent to employees it is presumed
these would be Scottish ministers.