Until July 2011, Cowal Ferries operated a passenger and vehicle ferry service across the Firth of Clyde between Gourock and Dunoon town centres. Since then, the Argyll Ferries town centre service has carried foot-passengers only, the service being provided by two passenger ferries. The Gourock-Dunoon route is the busiest ferry crossing in Scotland and the two existing ferry services (Argyll Ferries and Western Ferries’ passenger and vehicle service) provide a key link between Cowal / Dunoon and the central belt.
In November 2012 MVA Consultancy, together with The Maritime Group (International) Limited, were commissioned by Transport Scotland to carry out a feasibility study on future ferry services between Dunoon and Gourock town centres. The overarching aim of the study was to determine the feasibility of a service with the vehicle-carrying portion of the service operating without subsidy and the passenger-carrying portion being subsidised in a manner compatible with EU law.
There are a range of key potential 'upside' aspects (eg lower vessel GT, pier & berthing dues reduced through negotiation, Western Ferries retrenchment) and 'downside' aspects (eg higher GT, higher crewing levels and competitive response from Western Ferries) which could affect the service and the balance of these would be crucial in determining the ultimate feasibility of the town centre passenger and vehicle service. Some of the inherent uncertainties associated with these aspects of the prospective service could be resolved as part of a market testing exercise whilst other aspects (in particular the response of Western Ferries) would only become apparent on commencement of the service.
This study has therefore demonstrated that, given the assumptions made and analysis undertaken here, a passenger and vehicle ferry service is feasible. It could attract the level of market share, and therefore generate sufficient incremental revenue, to cover the various incremental costs of delivering the service.