Various letters and a specially commissioned video bearing islanders' pleas having been sent to Scottish Ministers as well as CalMac, the Group had ensured that everyone responsible was well aware of the inadequacy of the originally proposed service coming out of lockdown. It was acknowledged that significant improvements had been won, specifically the provision of a two-vessel service on the Brodick—Ardrossan route and the reinstatement of the Lochranza—Claonaig route from mid-July. The Group had campaigned hard for an earlier recommencement of the North-end service and remained hopeful this might yet materialise.
This remained the central issue in terms of providing sufficient visitors to sustain island businesses and to transport island residents to the mainland for essential purposes. Concerns had been expressed by CalMac staff about their ability to run to the timetable while ensuring the sterility of vessels. It was thought reasonable to request an extended timetable in the circumstances, even if this meant crews being asked to extend their working hours. Donald and Sam will encourage CalMac to re-evaluate the capacity of each ferry on the Brodick route. Robert pointed out it was each passenger's personal responsibility to maintain appropriate social distance, not that of the ferry company.
Donald queried whether the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had been approached by the ferry operator specifically regarding their possible agreement to allow passengers to remain in their vehicles on the partially open deck of the Isle of Arran. Sam reminded the Group that he had already written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity asking this precise question.
There had been widespread condemnation of CalMac's proposed "rolling window" booking system following the Group's online explanation of how this would work. Sam and Chris had liaised with STV to help them put together a news story highlighting this issue. An open letter had been sent to CalMac pointing out the absurdity of not being able to book return journeys and it was hoped that common sense would prevail.
4. Golden Tickets
Several islanders had suspicions that preference for available spaces on the ferry might be given to particular people or businesses. The Group had no evidence of this but recognised that suspicions could prove divisive. It was agreed that the Group would ask CalMac for reassurance.
Having been assured that the Gourock linkspan would be brought back into service prior to the terminal's more extensive redevelopment, the Group was keen to ensure that work was progressing to allow this port of refuge to be used again. Sam agreed to contact CMAL to check on progress. It was also agreed to seek reassurances that the use of Gourock would again become a contractual commitment and that the terminal would be able to accommodate larger vessels.
Planning consent had been sought to install mooring dolphins at Troon to accommodate the Caledonian Isles for the eighteen months it is unable to use Ardrossan during alterations.
In the absence of any meaningful minutes from the Ardrossan Task Force, it was agreed that the secretary would write to Karen Yeomans requesting an update on the Ardrossan developments.
7. Glen Sannox
Sam proposed that he set up a sub-group to investigate the true costs and timescale of completing this vessel and another to research and prepare an alternative proposal. Donald had an outline proposal he would circulate to the Group.
It was thought that the acquisition and deployment of another vessel, better suited to the Ardrossan—Brodick route could provide improved reliability and resilience at a considerable cost saving, especially since this would not require expensive alterations to infrastructure. Sally pointed out that Ardrossan would benefit far more from investment in the town than in a redeveloped harbour and ferry terminal. Robert entreated the Group to work towards a well researched and defined position as quickly as possible.
8. Public Relations
The Group had been approached by a well-connected professional PR company keen to lend weight to our lobbying. Having consulted with them, Gavin thought they could help the Group achieve its objectives at a later stage, with a more defined strategy, in collaboration with other islands. It was hoped that the Group's supporters would be willing to contribute towards the cost of engaging the services of this firm.
9. New Committee Member
David Millar had been identified as someone who could lend valuable business experience to the Group. It was agreed to approach him requesting he be co-opted onto the committee.
The secretary suggested it was time to send an update to the Group's supporters. It was agreed that he would draft a newsletter for approval.
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.