Wemyss Bay pier closure meetings: Q&A published

CalMac's MV Bute berthed at Wemyss Bay pier.
CalMac's MV Bute berthed at Wemyss Bay pier.

The owners of the Wemyss Bay ferry terminal have published the questions and answers given at two recent public meetings over the forthcoming repairs to the pier.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) held events in Inverkip on December 16 and in Rothesay two days later giving members of the public the chance to find out more about the major work which will see the pier closed for 16 weeks from March 2, with Rothesay’s ferries diverted to and from Gourock as a result.

The questions raised, and the answers given, were as follows.

Inverkip meeting - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Q1. Can a pedestrian only service be operated from the other side of the pier while the work is being carried out?

A. CMAL had considered the feasibility of this as it had been raised as a possibility earlier in the development of the project. It was not deemed feasible to use the other side of the pier for a number of reasons including the shallow water depth, the lack of pier fendering, lack of mooring bollards and unavailability of passenger access facilities.

While dealing with these issues is technically feasible, the time and cost involved makes this an unrealistic proposition. In addition, presently there is no vessel readily available to undertake such a passenger service.

Q2. Point made that the proposed 16 week closure would be damaging to local businesses. Concern expressed also that this could be even

worse if the project over-runs. Is the project likely to over-run ? What are we doing to ensure that the project finishes on time?

A. CMAL engaged the services of a specialist marine contractor earlier in the year. Along with this contractor and our engineering consultant, it was determined that a 16 week closure period was a realistic period for the works.

We have recently received four tender returns for the construction works and each tenderer’s programme confirms that the contractors can complete the works within the period. In addition, CMAL has included a financial incentive clause in the contract document which will encourage the contractor to finish on time or early.

There are always risks of downtime due to adverse weather which is difficult to predict or quantify, but by avoiding working in the worst of the winter months, this should reduce the risk of weather related delays.

Q3. Is there any compensation available for local businesses that may lose money?

A. No, unfortunately not.

Q4. Has the completion date always been planned as the end of June 2015?

A. No, when the first public announcement of the works was made, the original intention was to start the work in early February 2015 and finish late May.

However, the works at Gourock are not planned for completion till 31st January, leaving only 2 days between planned completion there and start of works at Wemyss Bay. It was considered that, with the potential of some weather related delays over the winter, that it would be prudent to revise the start date at Wemyss Bay to avoid any last minutes delays to the start on site should the Gourock works over-run.

Q5. Has there been any consideration given to operating three ships from Gourock during the closure period in order to maintain a similar

number of daily services currently operating from Wemyss Bay?

A. This had been raised previously but the reality is that a third vessel will not be available so this is not an option open to us.

Q6. Could the Rothesay service run to Largs at any point instead of Gourock?

A. No, Largs does not have a vehicle linkspan which means that the Argyle and Bute cannot operate from this port.

Q7. Are we sure that the Rothesay vessels can be accommodated at Gourock?

A. Yes, Gourock has an operational linkspan, so the Argyle and Bute can use the port. In addition to this, a lot of work is currently being carried out to prepare the port for the temporary relocation of the service from Wemyss Bay, including:

- construction of new boat steps for use by the passenger only services (Argyll and Kilcreggan Ferries) in order to “free up” the linkspan for the use by the vehicle ferries;

- improvements to the marshalling area, roads, footpaths and signage around the terminal;

- improvements to the buildings to accommodate the temporary movement of Wemyss Bay customer service staff to Gourock.

Q8. Has there been any consideration given to providing later bus services from Gourock to Largs during the closure period?

A. CalMac will liaise with the bus operator to determine whether this is feasible over the closure period and report back.

Q9. Will the refurbishment of the covered walkway provide signage appropriate to the listed status of the building ? The point was made that there have been numerous examples of where renovation of historic buildings has been marred by inappropriate signage and the siting of other features such as electrical trunking.

A. This point will be discussed with CMAL’s Buildings and Property Manager and feedback given.

Q10. Do you have a contingency plan if the number of sailings from Gourock cannot cope with demand, such as at Easter or during June?

A. CalMac has analysed the current passenger figures using the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay services and believes that the planned number of services is sufficient to meet the expected demand.

Rothesay Pavilion meeting - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Q11. Can you clarify when the contract will be placed?

A - The contract for the building works to the covered walkway has been awarded (on 18th December). Tender for the pier works were received on 11th December and will be assessed over the remainder of December and early January 2015. The plan is to award the construction contract w/c 26th January 2015.

Q12. Will the contractor be able to complete the works on time? What happens if the contractor goes out of business during the works?

A. CMAL engaged the services of a specialist marine contractor earlier in the year. Along with this contractor and our engineering consultant, it was determined that a 16 week closure period was a realistic period for the works. Four tender returns for the construction works have recently been received and each tenderers programme confirms that the contractors can complete the works within the period.

Before contracts are awarded, CMAL assesses the financial accounts of the contractor to assess their ability to undertake and complete the works. CMAL also normally requests a “parent company guarantee” from contractors and/or a “performance bond”.

Q13. Will there be penalties applied if the contractor is late in completing the works?

A. The construction contract will include significant delay penalties (“Liquidated Damages”) for each day of delay caused by the contractor.

In addition to this, CMAL will be including a “bonus” clause in the contract which will incentivise the contractor to finish on time or earlier.

Q14. Why do we have a situation where the ships are too big for the fenders?

A. This is a historic situation which CMAL has inherited. Lessons have been learned from the past and now when new vessels are planned, the port infrastructure is assessed at the same time to confirm that the infrastructure is suitable for the planned vessels. If upgrade work is required, this is carried out in advance of the vessel introduction. For example, MV Finlaggan was the first new vessel commissioned by CMAL and both Port Ellen and Kennacraig were improved before delivery of this vessel to enable it to operate from these ports.

This process has continued with other vessels commissioned since.

Q15. A point was raised that the pier is not suitable for the vessels due to how exposed the pier is and the design of the vessels. Are there any plans to construct a breakwater at Wemyss Bay to improve the situation?

A. There are no plans to construct a breakwater. The construction of a suitable breakwater would cost tens of millions of pounds. This is not affordable within CMAL’s available funding.

Q16. Could we change the vessels on the route to provide vessels which are less susceptible to windy conditions?

A. The current vessels are not certified to operate outwith the Clyde so cannot be “swapped” with other vessels in the network. Significant investment would be required to procure replacement vessels - there is no current plan to do this.

Q17. Could we utilise the north side of the pier for berthing?

A. There are a number of reasons why this is not feasible (no suitable berthing face, shallow water depth, lack of pier fendering, lack of mooring bollards and unavailability of passenger or vehicle access facilities). See response to Q1 above.

Q18. A point was made that we did not seem to be looking to make improvements to the service by enhancing the infrastructure or improving the vessels. All we seemed to be doing was doing work to maintain the same situation.

A. The project being discussed is for the refurbishment of the ferry terminal, not improvement or enhancement. The refurbishment is essential to retain the current level of service and without it, emergency closures of the pier may be required due to parts of the fendering system failing. Enhancement to the ferry terminal or vessels is outwith the scope of this project.

Q19. Who makes decisions with regard to what projects are planned?

A. CMAL as asset owner decides what work is required to maintain and renew its current assets and develops plans for this work for the years ahead. Wemyss Bay refurbishment is within this plan.

Major enhancement/capital projects are identified in consultation with Transport Scotland and CalMac Ferries Limited. Ultimately, it is Transport Scotland which approves major capital projects as the principal funder.

(Post Meeting Note - The Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan, published in December 2012 following extensive consultation, sets out the ferry strategy and route plans to 2022. This forms the basis of service development over the next few years and helps inform which projects should be progressed.)

Q20. It seems that the concerns of the island population are not being listened to with regard to the ferry service. The CMAL staff have presented information on the planned Wemyss Bay refurbishment project. It is clear that they cannot make decisions on improvements that the island see as essential. Who should we take our concerns to?

A. The comments made at the meeting will be shared within both CMAL and CalMac following the meeting and communicated to Transport Scotland. The most appropriate means of raising concerns locally would probably be via the local elected MSP. (See also Post Meeting Note in response to Q19.)

Q21. The point was made that people on the island want an improvement to the service, not simply work done to retain the current quality of service. In order to improve the service, either one of the following is required:

- improved pier, including breakwater

- improved vessels

- use additional vessels and operate from Gourock.

A. Noted. Will be communicated as detailed in point 20 above. (See also Post Meeting Note in response to Q19.)

Q22. Why was a CMAL board member not present at the meeting? There was a board meeting today in Port Glasgow, so it shouldn’t have been difficult for a member of the board to attend and hear the concerns of the residents.

A. Noted. Will be fed back to the board.

Q23. Can a passenger only service be operated from Wemyss Bay during the works?

A See responses to Q1 and Q17.

Q24. Has a contingency plan been considered in respect of service cancellations in conjunction with Western Ferries? For example, offering a combined ticket that could be used on both Western Ferries and CalMac ferries, including Colintraive-Rhubodach.

A. CalMac has opened discussions with Western Ferries about this and these discussions are ongoing.

Q25. Starting the work in March and ending in June will be damaging to the island economy, especially if the project over-runs into July and August. Why can’t the work be started in October 2015?

A. Starting the work in October will mean doing the work through November, December and January. Carrying out marine works of this type during these months, with poorer weather conditions, is problematic. A March to June closure is considered to be a sensible compromise between missing the worst of the winter weather and avoiding peak summer months.

Q26. Will there be a spare boat available in the event that one of the current vessels breaks down, leaving only one vessel operating between Gourock and Rothesay (eg. Coruisk)?

A. No, there is no spare vessel available. All will be fully utilised during the planned closure period. The Coruisk will be operating on the Mallaig-Armadale route.

Q27. Will there be advanced signage erected on routes towards Inverclyde from all directions advising passengers that Wemyss Bay is closed and to go to Gourock for services to Rothesay?

A. CalMac will discuss this with the relevant local authorities.

Q28. In the event that sailings from Gourock are cancelled and people cannot get back to Rothesay, will accommodation be paid for by CalMac?

A. (Post Meeting Note- this depends on the circumstances of the cancellation. Please refer to the following for information:

www.calmac.co.uk/Downloads/pax%20welfare/Pax%20Welfare.pdf)

Q29. The passenger access system (PAS) lift at Wemyss Bay is very dirty.

A. This will be fed back to the responsible staff for action.

Q30. Is it not the case that the PAS is too close to the ferry berth and that one of the issues preventing berthing in poor weather is the fear of the master striking the PAS? Will any new PAS built take account of this and be designed with this in mind?

A. The PAS at Wemyss Bay, while not particularly old, is on a plan for replacement. The planned replacement date will be dependent on available finance, but it is seen as one of the higher priority replacements.

The newer type PAS’s recently installed by CMAL have longer sections connecting the vessel to the PAS structure so it should be feasible to set any new PAS further back from the berthing face, although the available space on the pier itself if quite limited.

(Post Meeting Note - CMAL had never been made aware in the past of any issues relating to the PAS being too close to the berthing line.)

Q31. When will the proposed timetable be issued for the Gourock-Wemyss Bay service? (Ed’s note - we assume that ‘Wemyss Bay’ should read ‘Rothesay’ in this instance)

A. This has been issued. It was presented at the recent Community Council meeting and is published on CalMac’s website. It has also been published in The Buteman.

Q32. A point was made about poor customer service in Wemyss Bay recently. A member of staff was asked about displaying the next service on the electronic notice board and he stated that it was someone else’s responsibility and walked away.

A. This will be fed back to the responsible staff for action.

Q33. Recent notices to passengers put up in the waiting room/ ticket office were very small and difficult to see - can these be made bigger?

A. This will be fed back to the responsible staff for action.

Q34. Can CalMac issue information on cancellation figures on the Wemyss Bay-Rothesay route for the last 10 years?

A. This should be formally requested through a Freedom of Information request. (Post Meeting Note - see following link for details: www.calmac.co.uk/corporate-calmac/freedom-of-information.htm)

Q35. Has any account been taken of the possible traffic problems at the entrance to Gourock Ferry Terminal ? Thought that traffic lights would be required at the junction onto the main Greenock/Gourock road.

A. Discussions are ongoing with the local authority about re-establishing parking restrictions at along Tarbet Street (which leads into the ferry terminal) and at the junction of Tarbet Street and the A770, Cardwell Road. This should improve traffic flow and sight lines for exiting Tarbet Street. The possibility of installing traffic lights has also been discussed.

As detailed in the response to Q7, CMAL is significantly improving the marshalling area and traffic flow within Gourock Ferry Terminal itself.