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  • Scottish Ferries
  • matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    I know this has popped up before, but I cannot find a suitable thread as it’s usually discussion on someone’s holiday thread…

    What. The. Actual. Is going on with ferries in Scotland, particularly but not solely CMAL and Calmac?

    Aside from the silly delays and costs of the two new Clyde built boats, I read this today about issues with new port facilities meaning an existing ferry cannot dock in the dark or in any waves:

    http://www.hebrides-news.com/vital-uist-sea-route-faces-serious-disruption-calmac-ferry-no-longer-suitable-61123.html

    In the summer I was struck by how straightforward and simple the Orkney council ferries were. I also had one of the Pentland captains telling my father in law that if he had the same subsidy per passenger or freight mile as Calmac+CMAL, he would not charge a penny…

    We’ve been trying to get to a couple of smaller islands this autumn and it’s just not happened – partly weather, but mainly ferry issues. I’m now looking for the 2024 bookings and timetables to head out the outer Hebrides and it is a worry…

    I know underlying things is some really daft decisions from CMAL it seems, and a lack of political oversight?

    Arguments discussion please.

    Waderider
    Free Member

    CMAL and Calmac suffer from the same woes as other parts of the public sector i.e. they are now suffering the outcome of years of under investment. The problem lies with your ministers.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Which goes back to the financial limitations of the scottish government.  If they put more money into ferries then they have to take that money from other budgets as they effectively have a fixed budget.  NHS spend is around half of the scots government budget with education being another big chunk.  So for more money into ferries means less for NHS or educationThat is not to say that stupid government decisions have made the situation worse nd wasted money

    sparksmcguff
    Full Member

    @tjagain sums it up nicely. The other known weakness in Scotland is the lack of capacity (knowledge and skills) in large scale public procurement. Again this is an investment issue I’d argue.

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    That is not to say that stupid government decisions have made the situation worse nd wasted money

    This seems to be making a bad situation almost untenable.

    It seems for years that government, CMAL and Calmac have trodden a path to fewer bigger ferries, each a unique design not only onboard but in docking requirements. It seems each  harbour has also developed uniquely to support a particular vessel. And no interchange between northern route ferries either.

    So any single breakdown = fewer ferries to shuffle and serious and growing limitations on what boat can operate where.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    there should be a NOT in between have and made in that sentence for it to make sense or the first NOT needs to be removed – apologires

    Its should read “that is NOT to say that stupid government decisions have NOT made the situation worse and wasted money” ie its both a structural issue AND  daft government decisions compounding it

    joelowden
    Full Member

    Ex Calmac engineer here….
    There has been a lack of investment in maintenance of Calmac’s ferries for a number of years. Older ferries require more investment in maintenance but, every refit period was a fight to get things repaired/renewed. In addition there is a dual management process,IE a ” service delivery” department and an ” asset management” department. Neither department was particularly willing to pay for things and most jobs involved prolonged discussion about who’s budget it would come from.
    In addition the top heavy management is very expensive and employs many people who have no maritime experience.

    highlandman
    Free Member

    Making the ferries and their ports more cross compatible is very expensive and a very long term plan.. Difficult in practical terms and really, what’s needed is a fleet with spare vessels of a range of sizes.  That doesn’t come cheap, hence the arrangements with the likes of Pentland right now.

    Think about the range of requirements, often long crossings over open water to get to quite small communities.  Then take into account TJ’s expressions on the budgetary situation and the problems that an ageing fleet brings and it’s no surprise that difficulties arise.  Although to be fair, I’ve been on several ferries this year out to various western islands and everything has gone to plan.

    mashr
    Full Member

    At least the ships being built in Turkey are continuing apace. Sadly, my cynical side wouldn’t be surprised to find that there’s been a requirements screw-up somewhere down the line

    highlandman
    Free Member

    The problem with the two Clyde boats is on a superficial level, very simple.  They’re a new design layout, combined with a dual fuel requirement that was very ‘aspirational’ at the start of the process but has proven to be a nightmare in terms of designing in sufficient safety and utility.  These vessels are designed to run on both marine diesel and on LPG; the latter being much cleaner but introducing all sorts of additional problems along the way.  Rather than cleaning up the fuel, the decision was made to go dual fuel and reduce emissions that way. It’s proven much harder than originally predicted and if they’d been conventional ships off the drawing board, they’d have been finished years ago and out working by now.  

    It was a good idea at the time but rubbish when it collided with reality.

    munkyboy
    Free Member

    Mismanagement, unclear briefing and a political wish to build on the Clyde (rightly but turns out wrongly)

    nicko74
    Full Member

    It’s been fascinating/ depressing/ shocking reading about the chronic issues around Calmac, seemingly all boiling down to Nicola Sturgeon and her inability to actually, well, manage finances… Oh, and Alex Salmond’s, erm… “surprising”… decisions on procurement, if I remember rightly?

    If they put more money into ferries then they have to take that money from other budgets as they effectively have a fixed budget. NHS spend is around half of the scots government budget with education being another big chunk.

    Perfect summation. The SNP in Holyrood decided free (for all) prescriptions and greater investment in education were vote winners, and they probably weren’t wrong; but it boiled down to robbing Peter (the islands) to pay Paul (the mainland electorate)

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    Alex Salmond’s, erm… “surprising”… decisions on procurement, if I remember rightly?

    Ferry procurement was 2015. Nicola Sturgeon was First Minister. If I remember rightly?

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    It’s well worth this (very very long) read:

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v44/n18/ian-jack/chasing-steel

    The new port/habour at Brodick doesn’t work very well either. It’s almost like no actual sea-experienced engineers were involved in its design.

    It’s going to go completely batshit on the Arran-Ardrossan crossing when they start work on the Ardrossan harbour.

    squirrelking
    Free Member

    What is the point being made? I lost interest after the umpteenth segue into childhood memories of the port in the 50s before another trip through history.

    As for why you think Arran to Troon will be chaotic, got any sound reason? The slip at Troon is built for P&O RoRo’s for the Larne crossing and there’s another slip with a(n admittedly long out of service) Seacat ramp. The only folk moaning are the ones in Ardrossan who are getting the new terminal anyway!

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Perfect summation. The SNP in Holyrood decided free (for all) prescriptions and greater investment in education were vote winners, and they probably weren’t wrong; but it boiled down to robbing Peter (the islands) to pay Paul (the mainland electorate)

    Free presciptions are low cost and indeed may be cost neutral overall a there is now less bureaucracy and only a small % of folk ever paid for prescriptions anyway – and it reduces cost in further illhealth down the line.  Same for education – small upfront costs for large long term savings

    However your point is valid in principle for other stuff like the borders railway or edinburgh trams

    free personal care however is a really poor and expensive policy.  It save the inheritence of some middle class kids.  It makes little differnce to the people inrecipt of care

    stwhannah
    Full Member

    @squirrelking the article tracks the procurement story but in the wider context of skills availability. It’s not just that the procurement process was weak (and public sector procurement has form there), but that the basic skills on the ground to deliver aren’t there any more.

    Troon doesn’t have the same passenger access, so the turnaround times will be longer while they get everyone on and off the boat. Plus crossing times are longer. So there’s already a (planned) reduced service. Add a few cancellations due to the wind being the wrong direction or whatever in Brodick, plus the usual ferry breakdowns, and there’s not going to be a lot of slack or capacity in the system to recover from lost sailings.

    You’ve also got the islanders who usually head over to Ardrossan on foot for things like dentists, or solicitors – now their trips to these services become much longer. Plus, it’s then a half hour walk from the harbour in Troon to the train – will people actually use the shuttlebus to get to the train up to Ardrossan (or wherever they usually head), or will they just decide to take their car, putting more demand on the car service? It’s pretty chaotic now, I can’t see Troon making life any easier.

    poly
    Free Member

    Making the ferries and their ports more cross compatible is very expensive and a very long term plan.. Difficult in practical terms and really, what’s needed is a fleet with spare vessels of a range of sizes.

    Its a nice idea, and at first glance seems logical.  But eventually you will want a bigger/different ferry for some route and so then break the mould. If you know that is likely do you force everything to a lowest common denominator even if a custom design could handle more traffic, different tides etc.

    Which goes back to the financial limitations of the scottish government.

    Which is not an independence problem – even if they had fiscal autonomy there would be a hard decision to make about where to spend the money they had.

    If they put more money into ferries then they have to take that money from other budgets as they effectively have a fixed budget.  NHS spend is around half of the scots government budget with education being another big chunk.  So for more money into ferries means less for NHS or education.

    And actually its more likely a decision about roads / rail / ferries.  Given that people die on the A9 and thankfully not on the ferries, and the number of people moved by trains/trams/busses its not 100% clear to me that the ferries are where you would but another £xxxM if it magically appeared in the Transport budget.

    But Scot Gov > Transport Scotland > CMAL > CalMac does seem like a complex management chain to do things.  However Highland Council are not exactly heroes with their ferries, and many people in Cowal will tell you ABC are incompetent at fixing transport crisis too.  OIC have their own capital and operational cost issues for the ferries in Orkney.  I actually think Calmac, Highland Council, OIC and ABC actually have all coped pretty well with the problems they encounter; probably they could have avoided many but that means higher tax or fares and the most vocal complainers would be just as vocal about that.

    The hauliers seem to face the biggest frustrations.  I wonder if they’ve actually tried to solve the problem themselves – RoRo ferries replaced the puffers, they are a recent invention.  Are arctics driving the length of scotland the best solution?  Why have we accepted that island ecconomies dependent on shipping physical product is actually the most logical approach.

    I’m going to go back to the original post and suggest that it is partly the problem!

    We’ve been trying to get to a couple of smaller islands this autumn and it’s just not happened – partly weather, but mainly ferry issues. I’m now looking for the 2024 bookings and timetables to head out the outer Hebrides and it is a worry…

    Not being able to get there for your holiday is a 1st world problem (the islands are still bursting with holiday makers in the season so its not causing major economic damage), in fact I might even suggest its part of the “adventure”, if you want certainty go to centre parks.  Taking a vehicle adds jeapordy to your trip, foot or bike passengers are less likely to suffer the same disruption.   Its more of an issue for islanders.  RET was a great concept but the consequence is more traffic, more wear and tear on the boats etc.  Was an infrequent but more reliable services better than more frequent service that might break down.  I’ve spoken to islanders who remember before RoRo ferries and they are actually pretty complimentary about Calmac.  I’ve spoken to those who have lived in big cities and experienced the way rail and other operators treat customers – and they too are positive about calmac for finding solutions and understanding how ferries impact lives.  I’m not trying to say its perfect, its far from it, certainly there will be incompetence at every level from ticket collector to government minister.

    Personally I’d rather see RET abolished and the money used to make genuinely good public transport links both on and off the islands.  I may have missed it, but have the other parties proposed how they would approach the ferries issues if they were elected?   Political point scoring probaby entrenches some of the issues rather than making it easy to say “turns out that was a bad idea”.

    gordimhor
    Full Member

    No wish to hijack thread but I couldn’t let this pass unchallenged @tjagain

    free personal care however is a really poor and expensive policy. It save the inheritence of some middle class kids. It makes little differnce to the people inrecipt of care

    Really? I thought it was an effective way of keeping people out of hospital. Perhaps some people can afford to pay for it, but that is largely because the wages for social care workers are far too low. I know I àm one. Also a universal policy is much less costly to administer than a means tested one.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Oh yes I prefer universiality to means tested but even for home care the same applies. HOme care is paid for by the state for those with little money. for those with a chunk they self pay. so its still a subsidy that is paid only to the better off and acts to protect middle class kids inheritances. It makes no real difference to most.

    Perhaps a better argument for home care than for care home care but I still see it as incredibly poor value for money and I am one who would benefit for it as my parents are elderly and have some money.

    I resent state money being used to protect inheritance

    perhaps a policy with good intent but poor secondary effects

    maccruiskeen
    Full Member

    As for why you think Arran to Troon will be chaotic

    perhaps the fact that the move to Troon that had been delayed until this summer still hasn’t happened 🙂

    squirrelking
    Free Member

    Well yeah. I’m aware of the logistical issues and Hannah hasn’t said anything that’s not true but “chaotic” just sounds like the usual agenda driven nonsense. As far as specialist clinics go it’s still a journey to Crosshouse which is easier from Troon as well.

    Obviously disruption to people getting to work is going to happen but what’s the alternative? There are no other suitable harbours until you get to Cairnryan and I doubt Wemyss Bay is big enough for the Caledonian or Arthur.

    It also ignores the logistical benefits in that Troon has far better rail connections than Ardrossan so if you miss the train you’re still only 20mins from the next one.

    politecameraaction
    Free Member

    Which goes back to the financial limitations of the scottish government.  If they put more money into ferries then they have to take that money from other budgets as they effectively have a fixed budget. 

    No government has unlimited money (except maybe Saudi Arabia). This is a 100% Scottish Government problem and yet still there is an attempt to blame the lack of independence.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    NO – but an independent Scotland could raise money by borrowing to increase its budget and even “print money”

    An independent Scotland would have full control over its finances including taxation and revenue raising

    irc
    Full Member

    Borrow money? The SNP already have far more spending per head than the UK average.  The reason there is a shortage of cash for new ferries is that procurement rules were broken too award a contract for political reasons. We are £400m into that hole with no idea when the ferries will be delivered.

    A newly Indy Scotland would be dealing with a substantial deficit which would require higher taxes, big spending cuts, and/or borrowing to pay for day to day services. Any borrowing would be at a premium.

    https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/borrowing-independent-scotland.pdf

    politecameraaction
    Free Member

    Even when you borrow money, there are still other things you could spend it on and it’s not unlimited. Plus you’ll have to get government borrowing and spending under control if you want into the EU…

    tjagain
    Full Member

    You do realise that data is not the whole picture?  and if Scotland is such a basket case then its hardly an endorsement of the union?  Whats that saying about continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result?

    Edit – on the ferries tho as I said in my first post crap government decisions have wasted money and caused delays

    politecameraaction
    Free Member

     newly Indy Scotland would be dealing with a substantial deficit which would require higher taxes, big spending cuts, and/or borrowing to pay for day to day services

    To be fair, the same cadre of administrators and politicians that couldn’t buy some boats will also be negotiating exit with rUK, initial entry to the EU, launching a new currency and central bank, and adminstering a customs border on Scotland’s sole land border. They’ll have plenty of time and money on their hands.

    irc
    Full Member

    “the same cadre of administrators and politicians that couldn’t buy some boats will also be negotiating exit with rUK, initial entry to the EU, launching a new currency and central bank, and adminstering a customs border on Scotland’s sole land border”

    What could possibly go wrong?
    IMO the route to Indy is for the Scottish govt to demonstrate a track record of competence and financial prudence so the 20% of voters in the middle ground that are persuadable  can see it might be a better future. Not seeing it myself.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    IRC – we also raise more taxes per head than is spent.  Money flows south 🙂

    BIg thread digression. 

    tjagain
    Full Member

    IRC – whereas I think they have done not a bad job overall.  NO teachers or NHS strikes in Scotland because of fair pay settlements. No sickness tax in prescription charges, extra money for poor folk with kids and plenty of other success stories but you never hear them in the unionist press.

    I am no huge SNP fan but I am a fan of the truth and over the last 13 years which has been the more competent government- Holyrood or Westminster?  /are you really saying the tories have been more competent?

    gordimhor
    Full Member

    “the same cadre of administrators and politicians that couldn’t buy some boats will also be negotiating exit with rUK, initial entry to the EU, launching a new currency and central bank, and adminstering a customs border on Scotland’s sole land border”

    Still sounds better than sticking with the UK government’s current shower of thiefs, charlatans and bigots though

    dovebiker
    Full Member

    From someone who lives on an island, a local perspective is a bit different from what you see in the media or those that make a couple of journeys a year in summer. I know a number of people who work for CalMac and a lot of issues lie with CMAL  and Transport Scotland who make all the strategic and budgetary  decisions – CalMac as the operator has to deal with the consequences.  They’re also not unique to CalMac – witness the Corran Ferry fiasco under Highland Council – many businesses on Ardnamurchan have seen their revenues drop by 50% and are really suffering.  A key issue is that the operating philosophy of CMAL is often divergent with the needs of remote and island communities – they want mainland home-ported monohull boats with live-aboard accommodation that are sized for peak holiday traffic. The problem is these types of ferries are expensive to build, run and operate, require expensive proprietary port facilities plus they don’t run well in high winds and heavy seas. Many of the existing ferries are 40 years old, at the end of their designed service life so are less reliable, require more upkeep and break down more often. The decision to delay replacements is a direct consequence of decision taken in Westminster (austerity) and the Labour administration in Holyrood  – SNP aren’t perfect but are having to deal with the consequence. Last winter we were mostly served by a single ferry service on Oban Craignure by the Loch Frisa and yet had fewer weather cancellations – we’d be better served by a small fleet of ferries like the Frisa than one large 500+ pax ferry like Glen Sannox. Last week it took me 3 hours to get to a dental appointment in Oban, 36 miles away because the direct ferry was fully booked – I had to drive 80-odd miles and take 2 ferries instead. That said, the notion that we’d prefer a bridge from the mainland is ridiculous – the last thing we’d want is to end up like Skye.

    squirrelking
    Free Member

    NO teachers or NHS strikes in Scotland because of fair pay settlements.

    Only because they went on strike before to get it and took a long time to get there. There’s already been school closures this year because the jannies and dinner ladies went on strike.

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    Some more ‘bumps’ in the delivery of CMAL/Calmac services…?

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/24123412.going-need-bigger-port-not-ready-new-ferry/

    towzer
    Full Member

    Fao TJ, apologies to op. I’ve made some corrections, see below.

    HOme care is paid for by the state for those with little money, and those with lots of money or complex tax arrangements (or access to)  who can shift, trust, give and hide assets. for those with a chunk (that they have been unable to transfer or hide) they actually pay over the odds as they have subsidise the state paid residents.  (https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/23181410.care-home-self-funders-paying-40-state-paid/)

    Re ferries, I would suggest that the more layers of management and companies/bodies involved the higher the cost and the lower the quality.

    squirrelking
    Free Member

    What a load of shite.

    Ardrossan has had the upgrade work planed for years, the P&O freight berth in Troon has been reconfigured to work with the ferries and AFAIK is ready to go. It’s the Ardrossan locals that are holding it up and moaning about losing the ferry despite the obvious advantage Ardrossan has in terms of sailing times.

    Oh and Troon station isn’t the other end of town, it’s an easy 15 minute walk along 2 roads. They even used to run a bus when the Seacat was running out the other end of the harbour.

    maccruiskeen
    Full Member

    Troon has been reconfigured to work with the ferries and AFAIK is ready to go.

    apart from there not being any refuelling facilities for the new hybrid ferries

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    @squirrelking – tell me more, it’s hard to tell online what you’re suggesting.

    Is Ardrossan getting the upgrade needed, it’s just delayed? A temporary move to Troon then?

    Or…?

    irc
    Full Member

    I think the point is that despite the new ferries having been originally planned to be delivered in 2018 work has not yet started to make Ardrossan usable for them. Hardly joined up thinking. Not just the LNG they are bigger than the old ferry and won’t fit the current berth.

    Obviously somehow Westminster s fault

    “However, these small victories continue to be offset by the incompetence and intransigence of those who, against all advice, built our new Brodick terminal vulnerable to crosswinds, specified oversized and overcomplicated vessels that can’t use existing ports, and who cannot coordinate bus, rail and ferry schedules.   Paradoxically, none of these issues have been due to the universal shortage of available funding.   On the contrary, outrageous quantities of public money have been splashed on failures, necessitating ever more investment to try and overcome the shortcomings.   The eye-watering amounts of public money spent on the Ferguson Marine fiasco, the ballooning cost of fleet maintenance and the huge operating subsidy to support the service now mount up to hundreds of millions of pounds every year.   The Scottish Government has been long on promises, but painfully short on action. ”

    https://arranferries.scot/

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