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Renfrew Ferry service saved as new operator takes helm

The historic Renfrew-Yoker ferry service across the Clyde is to continue with a state-of-the-art vessel run by a new operator.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), which currently runs the link, yesterday announced that a Rosneath-based boatyard would take over the service from April.

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Silvers Marine will begin operations hours after the SPT-run ferry makes its last trip at 9.30pm on March 31.

Silvers Marine has already conducted trials using two types of vessel and will be able to carry up to 12 passengers to the same schedule as the current boats, the Renfrew Rose and Yoker Swan, from 6.30am until 9.30pm.

They will sail on demand in peak hours, from 6.30am until 9.30am and 4pm until 7pm, ensuring the 200m link between the south and north of the river remains. The seven-day service will run every 30 minutes during off-peak hours.

Managing director Mark Aikman admitted fares would increase and although he declined to reveal the cost, he said they would be only “slightly more” than the present fare. He refused to reveal the cost of the new vessel, describing it only as significant.

He said: “The fare will still be less than making the journey by the next cheapest method, which is the bus. We have one brand-new vessel which we have conducted successful trials on, and we will add to that.

“She does not have a name yet but we are hoping to conduct a naming activity with local schools.”

The Clydelink Ferry, as the service will be known, will make the crossing in half the time of the existing vessels and, unlike them, complies with the Disability Discrimination Act.

“As well as being DDA compliant, it is also pram, buggy, pushchair and cycle friendly”, Mr Aikman said.

He revealed the company was hoping to be able to extend the ferry service to Braehead and the new Riverside Museum, due to open next year.

Mr Aikman added: “We would very much like to discuss that with both facilities and it is certainly on the agenda.

“We have a long-established marine business based on the Clyde and for the last 18 months we have got more involved in water-borne transport. The Renfrew Ferry route looked a very attractive proposal in terms of developing a base on the upper stretch of the Clyde where there is a need to develop water transport.

“At present we run a service repairing and refitting private yachts and lifeboats. We propose to operate a fast ferry service on Loch Lomond this summer and are in the final stages of talks with the National Parks Authority.”

Mr Aikman said it was likely the new vessel would run in tandem with the SPT ferries for a couple of days to ensure a seamless handover.

There are also plans to tidy up the docking areas to make the ferry more accessible. At least four people will be employed to run the service, with the firm keen to hire locals.

Mr Aikman said: “SPT has been extremely helpful through the process and without their valuable input we would not have been able to conduct the trials. SPT has gone out of its way to ensure they worked with any potential operator on the route.”

Jonathan Findlay, chairman of SPT, said: “Silvers Marine come with a good track record in marine transport and I am certain will make a success of the route.

“We are leasing our slipways to the operator, meaning they can continue to provide a service across the Clyde.”

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