Ferry shortlist consistent with passenger-only
future for Gourock-Dunoon town centre service
The Government News Release about the four firms (Clyde Marine, Brian
Souter's company Highland and Universal Securities, Cowal Ferries - i.e.
CalMac, and Western Ferries) shortlisted for the Gourock-Dunoon tender
I have already shown using a series of FoI questions (see here
and here and here)
that the government's claim to have found "suitable" vehicle-carrying
vessel for Gourock-Dunoon was misleading .This government announcement
of the shortlist effectively signals what I predicted, that the Government
will turn the town centre to town centre route passenger-only and give
Western a monopoly of vehicle-carrying
(1) Clyde Marine Services' vessel is the Clyde Clipper which it tested
for docking at Dunoon recently and is passenger-only
(2) Brian Souters basic business model in New Zealand is to run passenger-only
ferries to connect with his buses, that can be expected to be his business
model here. His comments
about the shortlist mention only his intentions to "improve on
the current levels of service provided to ferry passengers" - not
ferry users in general including vehicle and vehicle-related traffic.
His existing business model for Scotland has been the passenger-only hovercraft
across another Firth, the Firth of Forth. A passenger-only service over
the Clyde would be natural extension of what he
is planning on the Forth, the obvious inference from a business plan
perspective is that he would bookend the Firths of Forth and Clyde with
passenger services, probably hovercraft in both cases, connecting to his
(3) CalMac's chairman has already made it clear
that they do not see any future for CalMac to run a vehicle-carrying ferry
service here:"Timms doesn't hold out much hope for CalMac continuing
to run car ferries between Gourock and Dunoon, hinting at a passenger-only
operation" Timms here says there is no "room" for CalMac
to compete with Western on vehicle-carrying here - yet there was "room"
for Western to enter this market and for two vehicle-carrying operators
in the Seventies when the market was a fraction of what it is now. In
fact the Gourock-Dunoon ferries carry about 2/3 the annual volume of traffic
of the rest of the CalMac network. But that does not matter if the CalMac
chairman does not want to continue vehicle-carrying here.
(4) Gordon Ross, MD of Western Ferries confirmed in the meeting with the
Minister Stewart Stevenson in Dunoon recently in the context of discussion
of "suitable" vehicle-carrying ferries that he has been searching
for such ferries for some time and had not found them. In any case, there
is no commercial logic in Western paying berthing dues for vehicle traffic
at Dunoon and Gourock when they can run them for free at their four linkspans
- especially now that they will know what is public knowledge, that the
business models and plans of the other three shortlisted companies will
not lead to a competitor to their vehicle-carrying business emerging.
So it does not matter who wins the route, it will go passenger-only and
Western will have 100% control of vehicle traffic Gourock-Dunoon.
Neil Kay 16th April 2010