The Council-organised ‘Craignure Marine Infrastructure Liason Group’ met on January 14th, and along with Community Councillors and others we attended… Here is a summary:
ONGOING IMMEDIATE WORKS & MAINTENANCE
In great part resulting from our FOI investigation of maintenance regimes at Craignure Pier, there is a continuing program of maintenance and upgrade going on right now, including:
Lighting survey and upgrades. Poor lighting is one cause of cancellation in poor weather (it makes rope catching and so on more dangerous), so this has been a focus for improvement. A lighting survey has now been completed, which shows all the areas of under-illumination and irregularity. This is now moving forward to create an upgrade scheme that should improve things – including the removal of the temporary work lights at the shore end of the linkspan.
Linkspan maintenance. The linkspan hydraulics have already been significantly overhauled, with (for example) hoses and valves that were long overdue for renewal being replaced. The next step is for the main lifting rams (the bits that the linkspan hangs from at the ferry-end and adjust it’s height with the tide) to be swapped and refurbished. This will require a crane to sit on the pier overnight, so that this job can be done without disruption to services. In order to get the crane in, a large section of the covered passenger walkway will be temporarily removed. This work should be completed over the course of the next 4 – 6 weeks approximately.
The linkspan has also had a full structural inspection, and the main likely result of that will be fresh coat of paint later in the year.
Marshalling area enlargement. This has been proposed since before the introduction of RET, and now finally land purchase and permissions are almost complete. We should see work on the ground early this year to create a longer queuing space for vehicles.
Pier Warden Post. This has been advertised once, and no suitable candidates have responded. We made the observation that the ‘traffic warden’ element of the job was perhaps a deterrent. Now that paid parking is no longer being imposed, this element of the job will be much less significant – hopefully making it more attractive! Fresh adverts will go out soon.
The Council have further consultancy to commission before any physical work can commence. The objective of these ‘interim’ improvements (ie improvements that will last the remainder of the pier’s usable life, expected to be around 10 years) is to allow a vessel the same size as the MV Isle of Mull to berth overnight (or something even bigger to berth during the day). This is what is needed in order for a larger replacement for the Coruisk to work the route, which will now be possible from the summer of 2023. The key improvement option is a simple ‘dolphin’ that can be added to the end of the pier (just like the two dolphins added to Tarbert Pier in the image below)
Consultants have now been commissioned to undertake this work, and shortly they will be running the public-consultation part of their work. They have to produce an ‘Outline Business Case’ – this is the third-party justification required for spending circa £4-7m, and will assess various interim options.
We have repeatedly and firmly made the point that completing interim work that will enable a 90m ferry (like the Isle of Mull) to over-night in Craignure is ESSENTIAL. It is essential not just to radically improve our ferry timetable, but also to alleviate summer congestion and comply with the vessel deployment plan that has been known to the Council since 2013. Had the Council embarked on this process back in 2013, then they would have had real ‘options’ – ie proceed with complete pier re-build (that engineers indicate will be necessary in the medium term regardless) OR do more minor interim works (like add a dolphin) that will last only a relatively short time. Because this process only began in 2018 with the ‘STAG’ appraisal, we believe there is no longer enough time to consider anything other than the interim addition of a dolphin (and other improvements).
This Outline Business Case (OBC) will conclude in March. We have had concerns about the brief for this study, and we were able to get some key commitments from Council officers at the CMILG meeting, that should ensure all sensible options are included. In addition to the dolphin, they are:
1. Passenger Access System renewal. The PAS is an old collection of donated parts from other piers that is neither fully functional or a pleasant experience for foot passengers. Initially, it was NOT included for consideration in the OBC – a decision that would have left this ‘temporary’ PAS in use for upto 15 more years. This is completely unacceptable to users or CalMac. The Council have now agreed that PAS replacement will be included in the OBC assessment as an option.
2. Impact of the ‘do nothing’ option on planned vessel redeployment. There are much wider impacts than preventing timetable improvements if the Council do not enable 90m vessels to berth overnight – a) Mull and Iona will remain the most congested service in the CalMac network indefinitely, and b) the £210 million being spent on two new ferries for the network will in part be wasted (even more:)) .
There appeared to be no reference to either of these two impacts in the brief for the OBC, but Council officials have now agreed that they will be included.
3. In addition, we were concerned that repair to the concrete structure of the pier was not included in the OBC. The need for minor patching was identified in the most recent structural survey, but no action yet taken. This is important, because if left un-repaired, defects that are minor and cosmetic now may become significant and structural in the future. Deciding not to fix these defects suggested that the Council saw no future for the pier after its planned replacement. This would be very short-sighted, for want of spending small amounts now. Just because the current pier is unsuitable for the ferries that need to use it now, does not mean it cannot have a second use in the future OR that should ferry strategy change in favour of smaller vessels, its expected lifespan may be extended.
We are therefore pleased to receive the following assurance from Argyll & But Council: “Repair of cracked and spalling concrete is a routine maintenance issue, and will not be included in the OBC. The Council do however undertake to timeously repair all concrete damage that if left un-repaired could lead to more expensive repairs in the future, or compromise the structural integrity of the structure.“
That’s it! Well done for making it to the end. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them below.