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Games flotilla chiefs say Waverley axed trip for corporate event

A ROW has broken out over the cancellation of a Commonwealth Games flotilla cruise amid claims that passengers were misled.

Hundreds of customers were left disappointed when the operators of the Waverley paddle steamer told them they had been forced to axe the trip on July 26 due to safety concerns.

Waverley Excursions said they were "unable to run our planned cruise", priced at £25 per head, because the Clyde harbour master was closing the river.

The paddle steamer was due to sail from Greenock to Glasgow alongside hundreds of yachts as part of the Glasgow 2014 celebrations, but it was said the harbour master feared that the historic vessel posed a collision risk.

Customers have been offered a full refund or exchange worth up to £40.

However, the Royal Yacht Association Scotland, the organisers of the flotilla, said they had done everything to accommodate the paddle steamer but the operator had "chosen to pursue a corporate charter" instead.

Waverley Excursions is in talks with the Arnold Clark Group to arrange a charity sailing, but the booking is not yet signed off.

In a statement, RYA Scotland said it had worked with the Waverley "for some months to place them at the heart of the event" and had 300 confirmed bookings.

It added: "The plan would have seen the Waverley as the lead boat of the flotilla as it arrived in Glasgow, and therefore eliminating any possibility of any smaller boats crossing the path of the Waverley.

"Unfortunately the Waverley cancelled their participation in the flotilla ... letting down the RYA Scotland team, RYA ­Scotland guests and indeed many of their own customers."

Ron Bailey, the Peel Ports Clydeport Harbour Master, said he was surprised that Waverley Excursions had told passengers he had prevented the paddle steamer following the flotilla. "That is not the case and indeed, I would have been happy to see her involved subject to some common-sense safety issues being addressed," he added.

However, Kathleen O'Neill, chief executive of Waverley Excursions, criticised RYA Scotland's statement.

She added: "The Waverley goes so much faster than the other boats and she can't go slowly, so if we were at the head, we would have been way ahead with nothing to see.

"We wanted the flotilla to go and for us to sail alongside it so that everybody could see the boats and that wasn't going to happen. So yes, we could have led the flotilla, but we would have been first up and the flotilla would have arrived an hour later.

"It just wasn't going to be a spectacle and we weren't going to be able to deliver what we thought we were going to deliver."

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