ON November 5 you ran an editorial on the current Scottish Government feasibility study into the possibility of upgrading the Gourock-Dunoon town centres ferry service.
It justified its headline ("Have taxpayers funded an exercise in futility?") with the argument: "According to answers provided to Jamie McGrigor, the Tory Highlands and Islands MSP, the new research shows little difference in the reliability rate of the Argyll Ferries sailings between the two town centres and Western Ferries' rate. If that is the only question under consideration, this is clearly a waste of taxpayers' money".
The reliability and punctuality figures posted by Argyll Ferries do suggest a remarkably high level of performance, with monthly figures typically ranging from 99% to 100%. But the reader who looks at the footnotes to these figures will see they do not include weather-related cancellations.
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This is the statistics of Wonderland. It is rather like saying that the conditions for barbecuing in Scotland are perfect if we ignore the effects of the weather and climate (and midges).
No-one is blaming Argyll Ferries for the weather, but it and the Scottish Government are culpable for imposing second-hand barbecue boats, totally unfit for the weather conditions that can be expected to regularly prevail on the Clyde Estuary. Following your editorial, I made a Freedom of Information request to Argyll Ferries asking how many days it had posted its service status as "services may be/are disrupted"?
The answer revealed that service status was posted on 23% of days since the inception of the service on 30 June 2011. The figures were even worse for the winter months and run-up to winter (October-February 2011 and October-November 2012) with that service status posted on 33% of all days (this not including notices of possible disruptions during refit periods).
It is no exaggeration to describe these figures as truly appalling for what is an essential public transport link. These figures confirm that the only thing known here with near certainty is that there will be several days a month where commuters may not know if they can get to work on time, students may miss their classes, and patients may have to cancel hospital appointments on the day.
Those of us living on the west coast know it is best to wait to see what the weather is like on the day before planning a barbecue. It is mark of how degraded the public service has become here that those dependent on it now have to do the same with these barbecue boats.
Professor Neil Kay,
Holyrood, Shore Road,