1. Ardrossan Task Force
Having been denied participation in the Task Force, on 12th August Sharon Shenhav had sent written notification to Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Chair of the Ardrossan Task Force, advising that we intended to appeal this decision and providing a last opportunity for him to reconsider his decision before we began the appeal process. Receipt of this letter had been acknowledged on 15th August, but to date no reply had been received. With the help of the Arran Ferry Action Group's legal team, Sharon had drafted our appeal document, based on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, which would be submitted in the absence of a satisfactory reply being received by 12th September.
Sam Bourne again suggested that we invite the Ardrossan Task Force to present their plan to the people of Arran. This was agreed.
Meantime the Secretary was instructed to issue a formal request to the Arran Community Council for a copy of the Ardrossan Task Force plan.
2. Evidence of Improved Reliability at Ardrossan
Robert Cumming had drafted letters to Paul Wheelhouse and Roy Brannen, Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, appealing the decision to withhold information about the redevelopment of Ardrossan Harbour, prior to us approaching the Information Commissioner. These letters would now be sent.
3. Concession Ticketing
John Ford had received a response to his letter of 16th July from CalMac's Managing Director, Robbie Drummond, in which he acknowledged the current procedure was not ideal, but expressing the hope that the proposed new ticketing system would provide a suitable solution. John had written again on 23rd August, setting out why he believed the response had missed the main point of his previous letter. It was agreed that he would now write to the Brodick Port Manager and would also follow this up at our imminent meeting with Robbie Drummond.
4. Reliability & Connectivity at Brodick
On 12th August, Sharon Shenhav had followed up previous correspondence with Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, reminding him of his verbal commitment to solve the connectivity problem between the ferry and buses that has arisen as a result of the new Brodick ferry terminal. She had provided further evidence of this, including personal testimony, and suggested that compensation be provided by CalMac to passengers left without public transport due to delays in docking. In her letter she had included commentary from Naval Architect Sam Bourne BEng (Hons), challenging the decision to withhold information relating to Brodick Pier. He had pointed out that the orientation of the new pier is in the worst possible alignment and its open piled-leg structure is the worst possible design, with technical reasons set out. To date, no response had been received.
Sharon Shenhav reiterated the need for signage at Ardrossan advising foot passengers that assistance from CalMac staff is available in the form of wheelchairs, as well as help with luggage.
It was agreed to tackle these issues with Robbie Drummond on 4th September.
5. Brodick Terminal Handrail
The committee had asked its supporters whether or not this was an issue for them. Sixty people had responded, with seven reporting falls and many more expressing concerns. A report had been collated for submission.
It was understood by the committee that it had previously been claimed that fitting a central handrail to the public stairways would render them non-compliant with building regulations. Expert opinion had been sought, including that of the Building Surveyor at NAC who oversaw the construction of the ferry terminal. While the stairways were currently deemed compliant, had they been only 50mm wider they would have REQUIRED to have a central handrail. Fitting these now would still maintain the regulation 1000mm stairway width on both sides of the handrail and the NAC surveyor was sympathetic to this need. He had further confirmed that the stair flights are made from steel so it should be relatively simple to make a robust fixing for stanchions to support a handrail; there should be no need for balustrading, just a handrail on supports.
This too would be raised at our meeting with Robbie Drummond.
6. Kenneth Gibson MSP
As previously agreed, the committee had extended a further invitation to meet, which had been declined on the basis that 'all of the issues you wish to raise are - without exception - already being taken forward by the Isle of Arran Ferry Committee (IoAFC) and myself'.
7. Anonymity Request
The committee had been bemused by a request from a Transport Scotland Representative to remove her name and job title from the minutes of our meeting 'in compliance with General Data Protection Regulations'. While acceding to this request, the representative's details are of course still clearly visible on the letters sent in her name. Legal opinion had been sought and concluded, "It's arguably in the public interest for them to know who has communicated this correspondence, and the interest is fully legitimate in that it serves the public, with no gain or benefits to yourself." However, in the interests of a collaborative approach, the committee agreed to continue to anonymise the identity of this representative in their minutes, while publishing all correspondence from public bodies, as is our policy.
8. Meeting with Robbie Drummond
Gavin Fulton was keen to prioritise a reliable port of refuge as the first topic to be raised, since this single facility would have the biggest impact on service resilience. It was agreed that each issue for discussion would be lead by a specific committee member.
9. Treasurer's Report
In a most encouraging response to our request for financial support, thirty-six supporters had to date contributed a total of £1,700. All had been gratefully acknowledged.
The Ferry Committee had pointed out an inaccuracy in one of our letters, which referred to them as 'business operators' when in fact not all members of that committee operate businesses. This was noted for future accuracy, with the hope being expressed that eventually the Ferry Committee would elect to join forces with the Action Group to provide the widest possible representation of both business and public interests.
11. New Website
The Secretary had circulated a proposal for a better website, more capable of supporting the number of members, volume of correspondence and increasing activities of the Action Group. On the current site, amateur-built by him and kindly hosted free of charge by a supporter, every new addition had to be hand-coded, entailing many hours' work. Moreover, since he was the only person familiar with its construction, the site was at risk if he was ever unavailable to maintain it. Exploiting his son's web design business, the Secretary had negotiated a modest price for the construction and ongoing development of a far more capable website. The new site would facilitate collaborative input, manage correspondence, aid administration and keep supporters informed, all securely, while complying with latest guidelines, including GDPR.
There was some debate about the pros and cons of including a members' forum on the website and it was agreed to postpone this initially. The committee agreed to commission the new website and review its operation after one year.
Robert Cumming again expressed the Committee's ambition to forge links with other West Coast ferry action groups. It was recognised that these groups might harbour reservations about dealing with our relatively new group ahead of witnessing our collaborative approach towards the organisations with whom they have established relations over extended periods. It was hoped that our constructive actions would therefore pave the way for wider collaboration and cooperation.
The current state of our lifeline ferry service shows it is not fit for purpose in terms of reliability, resilience and infrastructure. The Arran Ferry Action Group is a new and fully representative lobbying group, set up to represent Arran interests in demanding service improvements and accountability in future investment decisions.