Rothesay meeting told of Wemyss Bay start date

Wemyss Bay ferry terminal is to close for 16 weeks for major repairs on March 2, 2015.
Wemyss Bay ferry terminal is to close for 16 weeks for major repairs on March 2, 2015.

Wemyss Bay pier will close to ferry traffic on Monday, March 2, 2015 for major repairs, a meeting in Rothesay was told this week.

Four bids for the 16-week contract have been received by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), which owns the pier, and the winning contractor is expected to be announced at the end of January.

But despite promises of incentives for an early finish, and penalties if the project runs late, at least some of those present at Rothesay Pavilion on Thursday evening seem to have little faith that the work will be completed on time.

Project manager Brian Sydney, senior civil engineer with CMAL, told Thursday’s meeting that the first phase of the refurbishment work - involving repairs to the A-listed covered walkway linking the pier with the adjacent railway station - would begin in January under a separate contract.

“Our aim is to award the pier construction contract in January,” Mr Sydney said. “The contract starts in February with work off site, and the planned closure of the pier will take effect from March 2.

“The original closure date was early February, but we are doing a lot of preparatory work at Gourock at the moment in advance of the Rothesay ferry service moving, and that programme is due to finish by January 31.

“That left us with only two days between the end of the Gourock programme and the original Wemyss Bay start date, and if we lose only a few days to the weather we’ll blow the whole programme out of the water.”

The pier repairs contract involves replacement of the fendering which protects the pier from the ferries and vice-versa, repairs to the vehicle linkspan and to the roundhead at the end of the pier, and dredging work to the north and west of the roundhead and also to the south of the pier, two locations where silting up of the sea bed has made it increasingly difficult for the Rothesay ferries to berth in certain tidal and weather conditions.

But the planned timescale for the Wemyss Bay work cut no ice with local councillor Robert Macintyre, who insisted: “You won’t finish in June. You’ll be dragging on into July and August.

“What about the inconvenience and loss of income that people on this island are going to have to endure?

“You’re going to cause absolute chaos. You won’t be able to cope. You should start in October.” 
My Sydney acknowledged that there was no ideal time to carry out the work, but said an October start date was less desirable for two reasons: first, that the risk of delay was even greater during the winter because of poor weather, and second, that holding back on the work any longer risked an unplanned closure of Wemyss Bay on safety grounds.