2.1.1 An early part of the study was a wide ranging consultation exercise designed to elicit community and stakeholders views on the key study issues. This chapter sets out the details of the consultation.
2.2 The Consultations
2.2.1 The consultation process was developed in line with the requirements of the ToR, which envisaged:
- a public meeting in Dunoon;
- half-day stakeholder workshops in both Dunoon and Gourock;
- one-to-one meetings with stakeholders. This has included:
− Argyll Ferries / David MacBrayne;
− Western Ferries;
− Clyde Marine;
− Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited; and
− Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
2.2.2 A number of these meetings were focused more on collecting technical data for the study. We have not therefore reported on each meeting individually, rather we have focused on the key issues to emerge from the consultation process.
2.3 Consultation Event
2.3.1 The Gourock - Dunoon town centre to town centre ferry service has been an area of great public interest in Dunoon for many years. It was therefore seen as appropriate to open the consultation to as wide a public audience as possible. A public meeting, advertised via the local press, was held in the Queens Hall in Dunoon on Tuesday 18 December 2013 between 4pm and 8pm. The event was a drop in session where people were able to come along at their own convenience and discuss the issues with staff from MVA and The Maritime Group. The meeting was well attended, with some 400 people turning up to air their views. This was supplemented by a number of written submissions to the project team.
2.3.2 While there, attendees were presented with a short questionnaire which they were asked to complete. This was designed to help us understand issues such as:
- use of the current ferries - ie which service is used; journey purpose / frequency / destination; and type of ticket purchased;
- reason for the respondent's choice of ferry services; and
- changes in travel patterns since the Cowal Ferries passenger and vehicle service was withdrawn in July 2011.
2.3.3 The findings from the questionnaire are the main focus of this Chapter, with a summary of issues emerging from the stakeholder consultation following discussion of the questionnaire returns.
2.4 Questionnaire Returns
2.4.1 There were 247 individual questionnaire responses. While this is a good response, given the size of the local population, it is important to note that this sample is not necessarily wholly representative of the wider views of the whole community, or indeed of all users of the ferry services. It could be that those who attended the public meeting may have done so because they had issues to raise. Conversely, those who did not have any particular issues with the current ferry arrangements may be under-represented in the sample. In addition, it is important to understand that many users of the services, particularly in the summer months, are visitors to the area and their views will not be reflected in the survey findings. As such it is important to note that the findings from the questionnaire survey were not used extensively in the analysis developed and reported later in this report. Nevertheless, the responses do provide a useful insight into the views of many local residents and users of the service.
Geographic Distribution of Respondents
2.4.2 Figure 2.1 below highlights the geographic distribution of respondents.
Figure 2.1 Respondent Home Postcodes
2.4.3 As would be expected, the majority of attendees at the public meeting live on the Cowal Peninsula, with a large proportion in Dunoon itself. There is a fairly even spread of respondents from north and south of Dunoon, with a small number of respondents who live in Greenock and Gourock.
Choice of Ferry Service
2.4.4 The questionnaire asked respondents which ferry service they currently use, Argyll Ferries or Western Ferries. There were 508 individual responses to this question (n = 508) and there was a roughly even split between the number of users of the two services, with the majority however using the Western Ferries service. This is illustrated in Figure 2.2 below.
Figure 2.2 Respondents' Choice of Ferry Service
2.4.5 There were 853 individual journey purposes (n = 853) raised by consultees - the split of these journey purposes is illustrated in Figure 2.3 below.
Figure 2.3 Respondents' Journey Purposes
2.4.6 Almost 60% of people indicated that the main purpose of their trip between Cowal and the rest of Scotland was for leisure, with the most prominent journey purpose being 'shopping' (23%), closely followed by 'visiting friends / relatives' (22%) and then 'leisure' (14%). The use of the ferry for health purposes is clearly important, with 17% of responses indicating this as a purpose for using the ferry. The 'commuting', 'business' and 'education' purposes account for a combined 22% of the total.
2.4.7 It should be noted however that the responses have not been weighted for frequency. For example, three people indicating that their main journey purpose was shopping might only make that type of trip once a week. However one person having a main trip purpose of work, may make that journey five times a week. So while more people may have indicated that their main trip purpose was shopping, more trips could be made for work.
2.4.8 The questionnaire asked respondents to state their most frequent destination for each journey purpose when using the ferries. There were 735 individual responses (n=735), the results of which are shown in Figure 2.4 below.
Figure 2.4 Respondents' Journey Destinations
2.4.9 The figure shows that the most frequent destination was west central Scotland (94%). Glasgow was by far the largest trip destination for the journey purposes indicated, accounting for 36% of the total. The survey suggests that 20% of the journeys were to Gourock. However, there is a possibility that some respondents selected Gourock because they were going to Gourock train station for onward travel - ie the town was an interim rather than a final destination.
2.4.10 Some 7% of the journeys indicated were to Renfrewshire. Given the predominance of shopping as a journey purpose, it is possible that a number of these trips were to Braehead Shopping Centre.
Mode of Travel
2.4.11 Figure 2.5 below highlights the mode of travel when using the ferry (eg foot-passenger, vehicle driver etc). There were 583 separate answers provided (n=583), again indicating that people were using different modes when on the ferries.
Figure 2.5 Respondents' Mode of Travel on Ferry
2.4.12 Some 40% of responses said they travelled as a foot-passenger, while the next largest response was for a vehicle driver of 36%. Seventeen per cent of responses were for vehicle passenger, with only seven per cent explaining that they travel as a bus passenger on Western Ferries.
Type of Ticket Purchased
2.4.13 463 respondents (n=463) responded to the question about which type of ticket they typically use - the breakdown is provided in Figure 2.6 below.
Figure 2.6 Respondents' Ticket Type
2.4.14 A majority of respondents (61%) noted that they typically use a multi-journey ticket, with a further 38% using a return. Only two per cent of people typically use a single.
2.4.15 Of those who use a multi-journey ticket, 305 respondents (n=305) specified where they normally purchase such tickets. The results are shown in Figure 2.7 below.
Figure 2.7 Multi-Journey Ticket Purchase Locations
2.4.16 The majority of multi-journey tickets are purchased in the local shops, possibly reflecting the level of discounts on offer. Only 17% of people buy their ticket on the ferry.
Reasons for Choice of Ferry
2.4.17 Respondents were asked their reasons for choosing a particular ferry for each journey - they were asked to select all options that apply. There were 854 individual responses (n = 854). The results are shown below in Figure 2.8.
Figure 2.8 Respondents' Reasons for Choice of Ferry Service
2.4.18 The main factor for the choice of ferry was that the selected route was the only real option available (30%). This is likely to reflect vehicle users on the Western Ferries service or foot-passengers travelling from town centre to town centre. The second most common reason is integration with connecting public transport.
2.4.19 Price, terminal facilities, ticketing facilities and onboard facilities were less influential in their ferry choice.
Use of the Ferry since the Town Centre to Town Centre Passenger and Vehicle Service was Withdrawn
2.4.20 Respondents were asked whether they are using ferry services across the Clyde 'More', 'Less' or 'About the Same' since the town centre to town centre passenger and vehicle service was withdrawn. 240 of the 247 respondents answered this question (n = 240). 117 respondents said that they use the ferry the same number of times as they used to, 109 respondents said they use it less frequently and 14 respondents said they use it more frequently.
Use of the Ferry Routes
2.4.21 Respondents were asked whether their use of the ferries has changed since the town centre to town centre vehicle service was removed in July 2011. This was a multiple response question and 356 separate responses were received (n = 356). The results are shown in Figure 2.9 below.
Figure 2.9 Respondents' Change in Ferry Use Since July 2011
2.4.22 The chart shows that 61% of the responses received suggested a shift of custom from Argyll Ferries to Western Ferries. While this sample will contain respondents who may have selected multiple 'switch to Western' options, the trend is nonetheless a clear one.
2.4.23 Following on from paragraph 2.3.1 on the representativeness of the sample, the responses show that 33% of people switched to Western by car after the removal of the town centre to town centre vehicle service. However only 10% of respondents continued to use Western after the removal of the service. Given that the majority of vehicle users tended to use the Western Ferries service prior to the town centre to town centre service being removed, this suggests that the Western Ferries vehicle users are underrepresented, and the previous Cowal Ferries users overrepresented in this survey.
Key Determinants in Using a New Town Centre to Town Centre Ferry
2.4.24 Respondents were asked to select the two most important factors which would determine their use of a new town centre to town centre passenger and vehicle ferry service. The maximum number of responses should have been 494, but we received 600 individual responses, which means a number of respondents selected more than two options. Nonetheless, the responses appear reasonable and are illustrated in Figure 2.10 below.
Figure 2.10 Most Important Factors for Respondents in their Potential Use of a New Town Centre to Town Centre Passenger and vehicle Service
2.4.25 The most important factor for respondents was reliability (35%), followed by frequency (21%). Other factors considered to be important is the length of the operating day, fares and the comfort of the vessel.
2.5 Other Emerging Issues
2.5.1 This section sets out a number of frequently recurring issues which emerged during the consultation. Note that whilst these are important considerations for any future ferry service(s) between Dunoon and Gourock, they are not directly relevant to the narrower remit of this study (ie to establish the feasibility of the passenger and vehicle service where the vehicle element is unsubsidised). This section does not claim to contain a statistically rigorous survey of Dunoon residents or stakeholders. It does however report the themes which were expressed to the study team during the consultation exercise.
The Passenger Only Vessels
2.5.2 The issue around the suitability and reliability of the current passenger only town centre to town centre service / vessels was the single biggest issue raised during the drop-in session - even more than the need for a passenger and vehicle service. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the comfort and reliability of the current Argyll Ferries vessels, the MV Ali Cat and the MV Argyll Flyer. Evidence shows that weather related cancellations are well in excess of the previous average for the Streakers. Large numbers of consultees complained that they have missed meetings, been late for appointments or have been late for work because of ferry cancellations. It was also suggested the issues with the passenger ferries send out the wrong message about Dunoon and Cowal more generally, in that they give the impression that the area is difficult to get to without a car and not an attractive place to visit or do business.
2.5.3 A particularly large number of consultees explained that they do not feel safe using the Argyll Ferries' vessels. Various accounts of uncomfortable and indeed alarming crossing experiences were provided and a number of people claimed that they had now switched to using Western Ferries even though they explained it is less convenient and more car dependent for them.
2.5.4 It should be noted however that there have been inspections by the Maritime Coastguard Agency and no major safety breaches have been found.
2.5.5 A number of elderly consultees and a stakeholder representing people with disabilities noted that current access arrangements to the vessels are not fit for purpose. Boarding and alighting is seen to be difficult for vulnerable groups and a number of elderly people no longer use the passenger service as they are frightened about having a fall.
Dunoon as a Destination
2.5.6 There was a lengthy debate at the Dunoon stakeholder meeting regarding whether the lack of a town centre to town centre passenger and vehicle service is hindering the development of Dunoon. A number of representations were made about the loss of footfall in Dunoon town centre since the previous Cowal Ferries service was withdrawn. In addition, there was a fear expressed at the meeting that Dunoon could ultimately lose major events like the Mod and the Cowal Games.
2.5.7 More fundamentally, consultees, including a number of Councillors, believe that the current situation, coupled with the landslip issue at the Rest and Be Thankful, is sending out the message that Dunoon is 'closed for business'. They suggested that schemes like the restoration of the Queens Hall and shore-side improvements are being delayed by the ferry issue.
2.5.8 Others suggested that this theory was somewhat back-to-front. The view is that greater efforts need to be made to improve the quality of Dunoon as a destination, offering tourist, business and other leisure and retail amenities and this will make people want to visit. It was not the lack of a town centre to town centre vehicle service that was the problem. It was explained that while a good quality ferry service (passenger or passenger and vehicle) is seen as important in promoting the town, this is unlikely to be a panacea for all the town's problems. It was suggested that an improved ferry service could actually lead to further business leakage from Dunoon, as residents could travel more to Inverclyde and Glasgow, particularly the large retail centres at Braehead and Silverburn.
2.5.9 Others explained that many other towns, which haven't seen a ferry service removed, are also seeing less activity in their town centres. It was added that even towns that have a town centre vehicle service are continuing to see lower levels of visitors and activity, through, for example, the increased use of internet shopping.
2.5.10 We undertook a telephone consultation with a prominent businessperson in the tourist sector who provided his views of the industry. It was explained that Cowal is very highly regarded by tourists but the one consistent comment is that Dunoon town centre is struggling. He would support a restoration of the town centre to town centre passenger and vehicle service, as there is a view that many people now bypass Dunoon.
2.5.11 It was also suggested that the loss of the CalMac hopper tickets that allowed tourists to take in Cowal as part of a wider holiday or excursion may have been damaging, although it was acknowledged that sales figures from CalMac would be required to substantiate this.
2.5.12 The NHS commended the current service offered by Western Ferries, particularly the free 24 hour blue light service implemented by Western Ferries' staff. However, they regret the loss of the town centre to town centre passenger and vehicle service, as it offered a contingency option. One of the main goods moved by the NHS is medical gases, which Western Ferries cannot carry under their current certification. With the ongoing landslip problems at the Rest and Be Thankful, the NHS prefers to have a contingency ferry service, although the remedial roadworks at that site may lessen the problem.