1. Meeting with CMAL
Gavin Fulton and Sam Bourne had met with Kevin Hobbs, CEO and Ramsay Muirhead, Director of Port Infrastructure & Planning at Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd on 4th February. Various matters were discussed in detail.
1a. Brodick Pier
CMAL stated that the design had been constrained by many factors, such as the bus station, the need for continued operation throughout the construction, the wish for two berths, a deeper berth, and so on. They maintained that the eventual layout is the 'optimum solution' given all the constraints to the design process.
Exploring the wave modelling and the technical case, Sam referred to the clear risk highlighted in the reports and the apparent lack of any mitigation to the wave set from the East/SouthEast. He pointed out that our route is often the only route in the network affected in what are 'moderate' conditions on the Clyde. Ramsay explained some of the technical factors that affected the pier construction:
- Water depth at pier head is approx 15m.
- Bottom is a thick layer of silt/mud/gravel up to 5m before a rock base.
- Challenging ground conditions, implying additional cost to construct.
CMAL had found that wave attenuation measures only produced marginal benefits in other locations. Adding wave mitigation measures to the existing pier structure is considered unlikely due to its construction. A rock breakwater might require to be 200 metres long and up to 20+ metres high from the sea bed, at a possible cost of £25 million.
1b. Brodick Terminal Stairways
Ramsay explained that the stair is too narrow to have a central rail, as this would require a derogation from the more stringent requirement of emergency access. The significant risk of legal action should an accident occur would be too high.
1c. Gourock Linkspan
Aged 45 years, this is the oldest linkspan in the network. CMAL are significantly restricted by available funding as to what measures they can take. A full redevelopment is planned as part of the Gourock master plan, scheduled to begin in 2025. A life-extension plan is being developed to bridge the gap until then. This will involve replacement of the linkspan and repairs to other structural elements of the infrastructure, and would restore full vehicle capability by the end of this year. An engineering study is currently underway to assess whether it is feasible to enable the current linkspan to carry any vehicle traffic before its replacement. Should such traffic further damage the supporting structure, this would render it unserviceable, meaning that it would remain out of action for the next five years.
1d. Ardrossan Harbour
CMAL said they have minimal input to this redevelopment.
1e. New Vessels
CMAL claim that the major port upgrades are not directly linked to hulls 801/802; only a coincidence. According to CMAL, both ships will be completed.
2. RECC Inquiry into Ferry Procurement
Our written submission had been submitted. The Action Group had also written to the inquiry chair and MSPs, pointing out that Arran had not been represented by the CalMac Community Board. Despite reassurance received, it was still felt that the inquiry should consider the overwhelming views of Arran residents and to this end, Robert Cumming would write again asking for the island's views to be taken into account.
3. FOI Request re Ardrossan Terminal and Pier
The Information Commissioner had written with his decision that the Arran Ferry Action Group were entitled to the information we had requested from Transport Scotland. He had demanded that Transport Scotland provide this information by 23rd March at the latest, or face legal action.
4. Public Meeting
It was agreed to hold this at the end of April, following the conclusion of the RECC Inquiry and to coincide with the first anniversary of the Arran Ferry Action Group. All bodies responsible for providing Arran's lifeline ferry service would be invited to attend and present their plans for public scrutiny. The media would also be invited.
5. Caledonian Isles Annual Service
Our letter to Robbie Drummond requesting that the annual refit revert to its customary schedule, when traffic is significantly lower than immediately following Hogmanay, to avoid a repetition of the debacle last January, or failing this, that a larger replacement ferry be brought in to cover its withdrawal from service at a peak time had not been answered.
6. Bus Connectivity
The ongoing problem of passengers left stranded at the Brodick ferry terminal when the ferry is delayed longer than buses can wait was again discussed. It was agreed that we would conduct further research prior to writing again to Transport Scotland insisting that this matter be resolved.
7. Treasurer's Report
John Ford reported that, following reimbursement of our delegates who attended the RECC inquiry, our funds stood at £1,500.
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.