The leader of Argyll and Bute Council has expressed his disappointment following the Scottish Government’s announcement of the tender results for the ferry link between Dunoon and Gourock town centres.
Councillor Dick Walsh was speaking after it was confirmed that there would be no vehicle element to the new service.
The decision was taken despite a long campaign by both Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde councils – on behalf of the communities they serve – to see a vehicle element incorporated.
“It is very disappointing that the process has not produced what the communities wanted – a regular vehicle and passenger service between Dunoon and Gourock town centres,” Councillor Walsh said.
“Having said that, I am pleased that we finally have a clear decision from the Government which will allow us to move on and work out how best to ensure that the people of Dunoon and the surrounding area can benefit from the service they will have.
“I also welcome the fact that the new service will operate from our new linkspan terminal. The challenge for the council now is to create suitable passenger facilities at the linkspan, and also to look at how best to address the issue of Dunoon’s Victorian pier.”
Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde councils vigorously pursued the establishment of a vehicle and foot passenger ferry service on the route over several years – which included lobbying the European Commission.
However, in December 2009 the Commission ruled that public subsidy could only be provided for the passenger element of any service.
Since then, the councils sought - whilst acknowledging the ruling - to ensure that the tender would still allow the community aspirations for a vehicle service to be incorporated and operate commercially under stringent accounting, to ensure no subsidy leakage from the passenger service.
Both councils also sought independent legal advice on how the EC decision could be adhered to whilst achieving a tender which would allow the communities’ aspirations to be met. The main findings from that exercise were passed to the Scottish Government last year.
Argyll and Bute’s spokesperson for transport and infrastructure and chair of Hitrans, Councillor Duncan MacIntyre, said: “We did everything we could to try to secure a vehicular element, but unfortunately the decision has not gone the way the community had hoped it would.
“What’s important now is that this ferry service becomes part of an integrated transport network serving the Cowal and Inverclyde communities.
“The ferries must represent an improved level of service over that currently provided, especially in terms of the hours of operation during the early morning and late evening periods.
“We now look forward to working with the operator to ensure that the people of Dunoon and Cowal benefit in as many ways as possible from the new timetable.”