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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The ferry review

With a bland and banal RET questionnaire hitting many doorsteps this week, one might question why a new vessel for the Stornoway-Ullapool route has already been defined and designed with public money, before the appraisal of the route is even properly commenced.

But let's put to one side the waste of public money.  And the inability of the communities to benefit for stop-gap political RET decisions. And disjointed Government thought processes.  And the absence of any way to fund what is really required.  And the expectation that we will accept a poorer service than we deserve.

Let us all put that aside, and treat the consultation processes as something meaningful, from which the Government will genuinely take the views of the local population, and which will lead to a more appropriate and coherent ferry service.  At least until the other side of the election when they hope to kick it into touch on some pretext.

So what do the public think about the plans?

We all know what the Comhairle think, but what about Ullapool Community Council, the other potential 'beneficiaries' of the Government munificence?

Well here is their view:- 

Dear Mr Stevenson

Scottish Ferries Review – Consultation

Notwithstanding the actual Consultation Questionnaire and any returns of this that may come from this area, this letter is to make you aware of the community’s feelings concerning proposed changes to the ferry service between Ullapool and Stornoway.  Put simply we are totally against replacing the existing two vessels the Isle of Lewis and the Muirneag with a single large vessel.  Our opinion is that it would be a major blunder.  We summarise our reasons viz. (not in any order of importance):

  • TRAFFIC PARKING/MUSTERING CONGESTION – Impossible traffic congestion that one large vessel would entail. We can only just cope with peaks with present ferry.  Vehicle mustering area is too small for any more vehicles indeed we are seeking to try to get round this difficulty at the moment with the present size of vessels.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE, Ullapool Harbour – Massively expensive alterations to terminal facilities would be far greater for larger vessel.
  • PUBLIC PURSE – The required changes to harbour vehicle and passenger handling, parking, movement, loading platforms etc. will far outweigh the lower vessel cost for one as against two vessels.  Plus, two identical vessels are not twice the price of one.
  • TRAFFIC ROAD MOVEMENT CONGESTION – better road traffic situation with arrivals and departure to and from the ferry being spread – flexibility, day & night, plus road conditions, A835 Ullapool – Inverness.
  • BACK-UP FERRY – inevitably there will be breakdowns and bad weather hold-ups, and coping with this will obviously be better handled by two capable and sound* vessels – reduced disruption to passengers and freight.
 *note: We emphasize the importance of getting two sound suitable vessels as distinct from the position where the Muirneag has not been the right choice for this route and work load.

We have attended the public meeting held locally as part of the public consultation.  However, we are not at all happy that a decision to go for one ‘super ferry’ to all intents and purposes may already have been made and that the public discussion is merely for public consumption.

We know that this is only part of the issues in the current debate but it is by far the most important for this area.  We are also conscious that ever since the ferry first started operating from Ullapool nearly forty years ago there have been discussions with those on the Stornoway side of the Minch but little or no opportunity has been afforded to those of us involved in and affected by the operations on this side.  It has been a great thing for Ullapool but we do like to have a say in matters affecting us concerning the ferry service.

We look forward to a satisfactory outcome for all parties in due course.

Yours sincerely

Oops, but it looks like the communities either side of the Minch are utterly opposed to the plan that is sitting on the drafting board, ready to lay the keel for the new and unsuitable single vessel.

Will the Minister take heed of the consultation, or will the process be extended into the period of purdah ahead of the election, where no decisions are taken?  I expect the later, and intend I will be astonished and shocked if it is otherwise.

However, here is a perfect opportunity for the Labour Party to tell us what they want to deliver.....  It can't be any worse (or can it?)


Anonymous said...

Is this a letter that was actually sent, if so fantastic.

Another benefit of having two (identical!) vessels on the Sty - Ull route is that it is a massive improvement to the flexibility of the whole fleet. One ferry could be pulled from here and used elsewhere to cover for emergencies something that there is virtually no scope for in the current fleet.
A large vessel could strangle the economy if it broke down. And traffic management, particularly in ullapool, is a very valid point.

This should not and probably will not be a party poitical issue, only a fool would not support this.

Anonymous said...

They have two identical vessels on the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay run, MV Bute and MV Argyle they have been bye all reports a great success.

Anonymous said...

Is the carpark on this side of the water big enough, never mind in Ullapool? Wonder how long before the sailing we would need to be there if the ferry was twice as big? 1 hour plus at 6am waiting in a cold car - not nice!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone worked out the cost of ferries to the whole of the western isles over the next say 50 years?
Then compare the cost of linking the island chain together with a causeway and a final mainland link at the cheapest shortest route by bridge/tunnel or causeway.
Less weather disruption no Queue’s no booking’s no upsetting LDOS.
Tourists free to come and go,locals free to come and go.
Electric turbines fitted along the way to earn green points and help pay the cost (there must be a fair tidal flow up and down the Minch)
Not to mention the work involved in building which would employ a good few islanders.

Anonymous said...

This is not a Party Political issue and never should be.
RET is a being used as a political issue if they don't know whether it has been successful yet they never will.
Two fast modern ferries with the ability to provide some slack in the whole system, no brainer whatever party you belong to.

Anonymous said...