THE END FOR ALICAT? - NOT QUITE…
Last Updated on Friday, 10 August 2012 10:12 Written by Gordon Neish Friday, 10 August 2012 10:08
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THE outcome of a top-level meeting between ferry officials, politicians and a retired CalMac marine superintendent remains shrouded in mystery, despite rumours that Argyll Ferries had been instructed to replace the tiny AliCat with a vehicle ferry by Infrastructure Minister Alex Neil.
Captain Sandy Ferguson (ex-CalMac) attended the meeting and told the Standard: “I can’t say all that was said at the meeting - I wish I could - but I can say that Alex Neil said at the end he would like to see AliCat replaced with a vehicle ferry.”
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell also attended and he said: “This was a good meeting which was primarily to do with the shortcomings of Argyll Ferries’ stewardship of the route.
“However, Alex Neil was also very clear that the Scottish Government remains committed to a town centre to town centre vehicle and passenger service but also explained the continuing difficulties in securing such an outcome. At the same time he reiterated the view that I have expressed too, that the AliCat must be replaced .
“If those two positions could be brought together by identifying a different vessel that could also be used for an unsubsidised car service then many people would see that as a big step forward. But there are lots of obstacles remaining including contractual and legal problems."
The contractual and legal issues Mr Russell refers to are likely to make any introduction of a vehicle ferry on the route a long and drawn-out affair.
A statement from Mr Neil’s department, Transport Scotland, said: “Mr Neil reaffirmed his commitment to the feasibility study into a future passenger and vehicle service on the route and to working towards a permanent solution for the service.”
No hints of an early solution there.