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TRANSPORT Minister Humza Yousaf today (Friday) announced the publication of the contract notice for the Gourock – Dunoon ferry service, due to begin next summer - with bigger boats being a condition of the contract.


The tender document will specify that the next operator will have to provide vessels of 40 metres in length. The largest of the current vessels, the Argyll Flyer, is 26 metres long. Transport Scotland say this will bring greater resilience to the service, particularly during bad weather conditions. Additionally, performance deductions will be applied for avoidable service disruption.


The contract will last for 12 years, and bidders will be asked to tender for a passenger service, while being encouraged to provide an unsubsidised vehicle carrying service. The contract will also feature a continued commitment to half-hourly crossings on the route.


Interested parties will be invited to submit formal tenders later this summer, with a view to awarding the contract in Spring 2017. We understand three ferry companies have already held pre-contract talks with Transport Scotland.


Mr Yousaf said: “The publication of this Contract Notice fires the starting gun on the tender exercise for the next Gourock-Dunoon ferry services contract.


“Following close consultation with local stakeholders, we have specified that bidders will have to provide vessels of 40 metres in length. This will help address the current issue of reliability on the service, and offer greater resilience during periods of adverse weather.


“The 40-metre specification may require a potential bidder to make a significant capital investment. Tendering for a 12-year contract will make this a more attractive option, allowing bidders a greater length of time to see a return on that investment.


“The Scottish Government’s wish is to see a passenger and vehicle service operating between Gourock and Dunoon. That is why we are encouraging bidders to operate a commercial vehicle carrying service, alongside a subsidised passenger service.”


Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said today: “This is good news for the route and those who use it. The Scottish Government has honoured its promise to secure a contract period of up to 12 years as opposed to the previous six-year period, which will give any bidder a much better chance of recouping their investment.”


Mr Russell continued: “I am however disappointed by one detail of the contract notice, namely the lack of progress on the vexed question of pier charges on either side of the Clyde. I would urge CMAL and Argyll and Bute Council to reconsider their present stance on this issue as it could deter bidders and prevent progress with the creation of a new, higher quality, service.”


The transport minister said: “This tender underlines the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service. It will retain the current timetable of half-hourly crossings and will also seek bidders’ views on potential improvements to harbour infrastructure at both ends of the route.


“We want this new contract to provide greater support to the communities that rely on this important transport link. By bringing more resilient vessels to the route and continuing to invest in harbour infrastructure, we hope to make tangible improvements to the service and continue to support the economies in Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde.”


See next Friday’s Dunoon Observer for reaction.

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