Officials from CalMac Ferries Ltd visited Rothesay this week to find out how residents of Bute feel their ferry service could be improved.
CalMac board member Robbie Drummond was joined by Stephen Hagan, a non-executive director of CFL’s parent company, David MacBrayne Ltd (CML), at the Rothesay Pavilion meeting.
The event was one of 24 being held in mainland and island communities up and down the west coast of Scotland as the firm prepares its bid for the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) contract, due to run from 2016 to 2024.
Mr Drummond said the ferry operator was keen to hear views on issues such as customer service, ticketing, catering and crewing and maintenance of vessels.
But once the two officials made it clear that it was not within their power to alter fares or timetables, and that whoever wins the contract will be obliged to use the ferries owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, and will not be able to bring in its own ships, several members of the public present suggested that any other service improvements amounted to little more than window-dressing.
One, Norman Lamond, asked: “What’s the point of this exercise? You’re going to be stuck with the timetable, CMAL’s boats and the fares. Why bother talking to us at all?”
Another, Jean Moffat, added: “The coffee on board tastes like a combination of Bovril, Bisto and bilge water. But if we don’t have a robust service - which we don’t, because the boats are not really suitable for the journey they have to make - what’s the point in sitting here talking about the coffee?”
CFL’s only competitor for the CHFS contract is Serco, the company which won the contract to operate lifeline ferry services to Orkney and Shetland, under the Northlink banner, from a DML-owned company, Northlink Ferries Ltd, in 2012.