Meeting between interim Steering Group
& Councillor Timothy Billings
Monday 22nd April 2019

With North Ayrshire Council currently discussing Arran's lifeline ferry service and the Task Force meeting imminent, Councillor Billings asked to meet with the Arran Ferry Action Group to hear our views in the light of our recent public meeting.

The Action Group

Activity

Have Your Say

Further Information

Where are our ferries?

Brodick Webcam
Councillor Billings started by explaining that he was aware that following the exploratory drilling at Ardrossan port there was a better understanding of how the port was constructed, and that enlargement of the manoeuvring area remained a key objective of the Ardrossan Harbour Task Force, which would be meeting this week.

The Steering Group asserted that it was not a question of Ardrossan being done right, but whether it should be done at all. We suggested that prior to the proposed upgrading of the port, three CalMac skippers should be asked to state publicly that, with those works completed, they would be able to make full use of the port. Councillor Billings explained that while the original simulations of the proposed works at Ardrossan demonstrated worse reliability of the port, subsequent "re-modelling" of the simulator projected improved reliability. He said the Council is invested in improving Ardrossan for the benefit of the town. He also pointed out that 2/3rds of CalMac's income comes from the public purse.

The Steering Group thought investment in the town a noble aim for the Council, for the benefit of residents and visitors to Ardrossan, but queried what benefits would accrue to those residents from investment in the harbour. We further questioned whether the proposed upgrading of the harbour would actually result in a more reliable ferry service.

While accepting the need for investment in Ardrossan, we remained adamant that duplication of Brodick's problems must be avoided at all costs. We asked Councillor Billings to ensure that any plans be presented for proper public consultation before being contracted.

Councillor Billings explained that the Council's role in the Ardrossan Harbour project is to work with the parties involved in the project, and he has been assured that any funds provided by the Council for the land-side work would not impact the Council's capital programme or revenue funds.

The Steering Group felt that investment in Ardrossan could end up being detrimental to our ferry service, especially if the preferred smaller, twin-hull vessels were deployed.

Councillor Billings was aware that there are Scottish examples of privately run ferry services that use a totally different operating model, and that consideration of that model should form part of the future strategic direction for other ferry services in Scotland. However, given the time to make that sort of decision, Councillor Billings reckoned that consideration of alternative vessels was not relevant at this time, given that there are two vessels being built and that new vessels are needed now.

Exasperated, we asked where was any evidence that anyone was listening to expert opinion? Climate change will only exacerbate current problems. Council representatives had previously failed to recognise lifeline service issues. Councillor Billings agreed that the CalMac model is unsustainable and hoped we would hold key people to account. He has spoken with NAC's Executive Director of Economy & Communities, Karen Yeomans, who assured him that she really did appreciate the issues, but was committed to current plans.

The Steering Group pointed out the reputational risks to the economy of the island caused by our unreliable lifeline ferry service. We asked Councillor Billings whether, with sufficient public support, the Arran Ferry Action Group could become the primary contact with the Council, representing island residents on ferry-related matters. Councillor Billings stated that he proposed to use information from the summary of our first public meeting to seek the Council's recognition of the Action Group as the voice of the residents of Arran.

Contact Details | Privacy Policy