How it ends?

CalMac have put in a bid to buy two used passenger-only vessels subject to their winning the Gourock-Dunoon tender, one is the Ali Cat the totally unsuitable passenger only vessel which only does the extra peak sailings just now, the other is one that probably would replace the vehicle-carrying streaker, it is the Banrion Chonomara, a picture of it is here.

The notice is here

Of course, despite its being short listed for the tender, Western Ferries would be delighted with this outcome, especially in the light of the recent court decision on tonnage tax because it would give it monopoly control over vehicle-carrying and pricing over the crucial Clyde crossing.

If this comes about it will be a matter of record that while there have been many governments that have contributed to this decision, it was the last SNP government, and that SNP government alone, that was responsible for this outcome after a manifesto promise in 2007 to build the two vehicle-carrying ferries that the route needed, see the latest on that here. They are responsible and they must be held to account despite (or rather because of) the barrage of misleading information they fed the public in this context and which has been well analysed on my website over the past few months

Neil Kay 19th May 2011

POSTSCRIPT added 20th May

David MacBrayne is the holding company that includes CalMac (subsidiary Cowal Ferries in the case of Gourock-Dunoon). CalMac typically leases its vessels, mostly from CMAL the Scottish Government's asset owning company or Red Funnel in the case of the Ali Cat. But the notice above appears to imply that CalMac (David MacBrayne) would actually purchase the two second-hand passenger-only vessels in the event of it winning this tender.

If this is confirmed, the significance of this is that it could create barriers to upgrading the service totally or partially to vehicle-carrying during the tender or at its end. Just as it is easier to move house if you rent rather than own your own house, so if you lease a ferry it is much easier to switch to a new ferry than if you are stuck with an asset that you have purchased.

It is difficult to see this as anything other than a deliberate attempt to lock the service into passenger only, now and in the future. And of course after two years of the Government dragging its feet over the tender, this becomes public just a few days after the Holyrood election.

20th May 2011