Written by Gordon Neish Friday, 15 February 2013 09:46
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MEMBERS of Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group are set to meet Deputy First Minister twice in the coming weeks; in Glasgow on Monday (February 18) and in Dunoon on March 4.
Ms Sturgeon’s previous attempt to meet the group in Dunoon to discuss concerns about Argyll Ferries’ reliability failed – because the ferries were off.
Since then the Infrastructure Minister agreed to examine the possibility of a winter replacement vessel for MV Ali Cat – described by her predecessor Alex Neil as ‘not fit for purpose’ – and disappointed local campaigners by concluding, on advice from Transport Scotland officials, that the only available vessel, MV Coruisk, was not suitable for the route.
Officials told Ms Sturgeon that Coruisk could not complete the return journey within the 60-minute timetable period, and would require 70 minutes to do the job.
The government minister gave the news to the local campaign group on January 9 and Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group chair Susanna Rice replied to Ms Sturgeon on January 17 disputing the advice given by Transport Scotland officials.
Mrs Rice states in her letter: “We accept you have no alternative but to commission advice from Transport Scotland. However, we do not accept that Transport Scotland’s advice is infallible – indeed, we might not be suffering the consequence of the current ‘not fit for purpose’ service if Transport Scotland’s advice had been challenged in the past.”
Mrs Rice then goes on to point out that not only has Coruisk never been tested for berthing at Dunoon’s new linkspan, but she is capable of speeds in excess of the current 12 knot limit on the Clyde.
Requesting a meeting with the minister, Mrs Rice concluded: “For our part, we think you have accepted the advice of Transport Scotland too readily. We are happy to assist you before you make decisions on the Dunoon Gourock route in future so that we can correct mistaken advice.”
Monday’s meeting is to, in the words of Nicola Sturgeon in her January 19 reply: “.... explain the reasons for the decision, listen to the views of the action group and to respond to the points made in your letter.”
When Nicola Sturgeon comes to Dunoon on March 4 it will be to discuss a draft feasibility study, currently being prepared by consultants, on the future of the town centre Dunoon-Gourock ferry service.