Scottish hire fleet is reprieved
CONCERNS THAT the closure of Capercaillie Cruisers’ Falkirk hire-boat operation would mean an end to holiday hire on Scotland’s Lowland Canals have been allayed by the announcement of a new partnership between three hire companies and Scottish Canals.
The three companies worked with Capercaillie to provide a combined fleet of around 20 narrowboats at Falkirk, where the Union Canal meets the Forth & Clyde Canal below the Falkirk Wheel, and the only holiday hire base on the lowland waterways.
But earlier this year the company announced it would close at the end of 2017, citing increased charges imposed by Scottish Canals. This led to fears that it would mean the end not only for Capercaillie’s own three craft but also for the remainder of the fleet, franchised with the other three companies.
Scottish Canals called the company’s decision “regrettable” and pointed out that “Capercaillie has been actively trying to sell the business for the past two years” including offering it for sale to SC – but with “excessive expectations” of what it was worth.
Meanwhile, the Inland Waterways Association said there was “a large gap between what Scottish Canals wishes to charge and what Capercaillie Cruisers and potentially other operators believe they can pay”.
However Black Prince, ABC and Marine Cruises have now agreed a new partnership with SC which will not only mean that 15 craft (six each from ABC and Black Prince plus three from Marine Cruises) will continue to operate, but according to SC will “grow the hire boat fleet on the Lowland Canals”.
ABC’s Ed Helps said the agreement “heralds a new era of hire-boat holidays on the Lowland Canals”, while Leighton Jones of Black Prince said the company would start taking bookings for 2018 and beyond. Marine Cruises’ Hayley Noden said the deal gave the three companies “all the security they need” to deliver holiday this year and next year.