16 November 2009

Gourock-Dunoon ferry service

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, told community leaders today that the tender process for the Gourock-Dunoon ferry route is going ahead.

Scotland's Transport Minister has reassured community leaders in the Gourock and Dunoon area that the Scottish Government is committed to delivering a vehicle and passenger ferry service for the area.

Stewart Stevenson told the meeting in Dunoon that, following the European Commission's investigation into support for ferry services in Scotland, the Scottish Government remained committed to providing a town-centre to town-centre vehicle and passenger Gourock-Dunoon ferry service.

He said:

"We look forward to the findings of the European Commission's investigation into Scotland's ferry services. Their conclusions will allow us to secure the future of the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service.

"The Commission has confirmed that public financing for the operation of ferry shipping services in Scotland is compatible with State aid rules. However, this was subject to the condition that we launch a transparent and non-discriminatory public tender for the operation of the Gourock-Dunoon route and that is what we are going to do.

"We have reiterated our commitment to this service on this route many times. The Commission has said the new service should be in place by June 2011 and therefore we are now moving to initiate an open and transparent public procurement process."

The EC investigation concluded on October 27, 2009. It ruled that Scottish Government support for the ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon could continue, subject to a tendering exercise.

Mr Stevenson told the meeting that the Scottish Government will now launch a new open, transparent and non-discriminatory public tender for the route on the following terms:
  • The public service contract will cover a town-centre to town-centre ferry service with a six-year public service contract
  • The tender will allow for a subsidy for passenger traffic on this route (unlike the preceding tender)
  • The current timetable restrictions will be removed
  • The winning bidder could provide an unrestricted commercial vehicle transport service in addition to a passenger service, subject to compliance with the State aid rules
  • CMAL have been asked by the Government to provisionally identify a suitable vessel for the route but under the EC rules the winning bidder may bring in its own vessels, replacing the old vessels currently operating on the route.
The full report from the European Commission is expected to be published by the end of November.

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