Ferry com­mit­tee vows to keep fight­ing

The Arran Banner - - News - Colin Smee­ton ed­i­tor@ar­ran­ban­ner.co.uk

Mem­bers of the pub­lic were af­forded a rare glimpse into the in­ner work­ings of the Ar­ran Ferry Com­mit­tee on Mon­day night at their an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, which is their only gather­ing open to the pub­lic and not held be­hind closed doors.

In­cluded on the agenda was the elec­tion of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the In­de­pen­dent Trav­eller which was won, by bal­lot, by Neil Arthur, who has served in the role for three con­sec­u­tive years.

Present at the meet­ing were chair­man Iain Thom­son, two rep­re­sen­ta­tives from CalMac, along with other rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Stage­coach, Ar­ran Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, Ar­ran Com­mu­nity Vol­un­tary Ser­vices and VisitAr­ran. Ar­ran coun­cil­lors Ti­mothy Billings and Ellen McMaster and MSP Ken­neth Gib­son were also in at­ten­dance, as were about 30 mem­bers of the pub­lic and those rep­re­sent­ing their own in­ter­ests.

Giv­ing his re­port, chair­man Iain Thom­son said it had been busy year for the ferry com­mit­tee, which had held 11 meet­ings, and brought all those in at­ten­dance up to speed on the re­cent de­vel­op­ments within CMAL and CalMac and Trans­port Scot­land. Chief among th­ese were the Brod­ick ferry ter­mi­nal, which has now been com­pleted, and the Ar­drossan har­bour work, which has seen the plans fi­nalised, but no timetable for the de­vel­op­ment prof­fered so far.

The chair­man said the ferry com­mit­tee would con­tinue to lobby CMAL and Trans­port Scot­land to ex­tend their ser­vices on Ar­ran and to ad­dress is­sues with ca­pac­ity, timeta­bles and to lis­ten to their con­cerns re­gard­ing the age of the fleet.

Stat­ing that their fi­nan­cial and eco­nomic case for an ex­ten­sion to the ser­vices on Ar­ran which had been sub­mit­ted to CMAL and Trans­port Scot­land had fallen on deaf ears, and in­ti­mat­ing frus­tra­tion, Mr Thom­son then spoke of the process which in­volves sub­mit­ting a re­quest to the or­gan­i­sa­tions, only to have to wait three months to re­ceive a re­ply.

Later the elec­tion of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the In­de­pen­dent Trav­eller was held. Cur­rent post-holder Neil Arthur and John Ford, a mem­ber of the Lochranza and Cat­a­col Com­mit­tee, both stated their cases for be­ing elected to the po­si­tion.

Start­ing, Mr Ford, who men­tioned his part in help­ing to es­tab­lish the wait­ing room at Lochranza Ter­mi­nal, said his mo­ti­va­tion was to try to in­flu­ence a bet­ter ser­vice, es­pe­cially with re­gards to book­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, which he had him­self ex­pe­ri­enced when try­ing to at­tend main­land ap­point­ments. Men­tion­ing the ex­cel­lent work that the cur­rent in­cum­bent had done, and which he aimed to live up to, he also added that he had the full sup­port of the Lochranza and Cat­a­col Com­mit­tee be­hind him.

Mr Arthur, hop­ing to re­tain the po­si­tion, out­lined his use of the ferry since 1948 in var­i­ous guises from be­ing a lorry driver to a farm worker to a busi­ness owner. Stat­ing that he was aware of the roles played by all in­volved and hav­ing a net­work of friends, col­leagues and as­so­ci­ates across the is­land, he was well known and well placed to rep­re­sent the in­de­pen­dent trav­eller. List­ing his in­volve­ment in the Ar­ran Com­mu­nity Coun­cil and on the Ferry Com­mit­tee, he men­tioned hav­ing con­trib­uted to meet­ings pos­i­tively over the years. Neil Arthur con­cluded his mo­ti­va­tions by say­ing that he took a sense of en­joy­ment from the role that he had played and which he hoped to con­tinue. Af­ter a bal­lot, Neil Arthur was re-elected for the role.

In con­clud­ing, at­ten­dees were then in­vited to con­trib­ute by way of ques­tion or com­ment to the any other busi­ness item listed on the agenda.

A ques­tion raised by a mem­ber of the pub­lic re­gard­ing the syn­chro­nis­ing of the ferry and bus ser­vice of­fered by Stage­coach was dealt with di­rectly by a Stage­coach rep­re­sen­ta­tive who spoke of the knockon ef­fect of al­ter­ing timeta­bles and the lim­ited re­sources that they had at their dis­posal. Pressed by fur­ther ques­tion­ing on the topic, the Stage­coach rep­re­sen­ta­tive made clear that the timeta­bles were set by Strath­clyde Part­ner­ship for Trans­port and that any re­quest for al­ter­ations would need to be made by them.

Pro­vok­ing a rip­ple of ex­cite­ment in the meet­ing room at the Moun­tain Res­cue Sta­tion, a mem­ber of the pub­lic, mak­ing men­tion of the nu­mer­ous in­stances of stonewalling re­ceived by the com­mit­tee and seem­ing in­ef­fec­tual in his opin­ion, asked: ‘What is the use of this com­mit­tee and why do you bother?’

Mr Thom­son re­minded the au­di­ence mem­ber that they did not have de­ci­sion mak­ing power as they were a lobby group.

But Sheila Gil­more said the ferry com­mit­tee had helped to see many changes to the ferry ser­vice in com­par­i­son to the ser­vice pro­vided 20 years ago.

Ken­neth Gib­son MSP added his opin­ion to the as­ser­tion, cit­ing an ex­ten­sion to the sum­mer sea­son sail­ings, new fer­ries and be­ing a cat­a­lyst for change, as rea­sons, in part need­ing to be cred­ited to the com­mit­tee. Us­ing the words ‘tremen­dous work’ and ‘in­valu­able’, he added that the com­mit­tee had be­come a model for other ferry com­mit­tees across the coun­try.

Mr Thom­son, hav­ing al­ready spo­ken of their li­ais­ing with the NHS and main­land hos­pi­tals in stream­lin­ing the ser­vice to ac­com­mo­date pa­tients dur­ing his chair­man’s re­port, added noth­ing fur­ther to the ques­tion.

Fur­ther ques­tions re­gard­ing no­tices of as­sis­tance be­ing avail­able to ad­di­tional needs pas­sen­gers and the use of the Brod­ick ter­mi­nal for bus pas­sen­gers were dealt with swiftly by in­form­ing the in­quisi­tor that as­sis­tance was avail­able with a men­tion of this at var­i­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties and that, the Brod­ick Ferry Ter­mi­nal was a pub­lic area, with seats and toi­lets.

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Neil Arthur has been re-elected as the In­de­pen­dent Trav­eller for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

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