The Council have published their draft ‘Outline Business Case’ for both interim improvements and long-term replacement of Craignure Pier. This is the next stage in the long process of preparing for pier renewal that began with the STAG report in 2019 and will span many years. The purpose of the Outline Business Case, prepared by several teams of contracted consultants, is to refine choices. Online consultation closes on February 28th.
The Interim OBC considers whether any short-term improvements will be carried out in the remaining 7-15 years of life for the current pier. It has been planned for many years that a larger vessel (probably MV Hebrides) would replace the Coruisk once the new Glen Sannox enters service. This is impossible without the extension to the pier proposed in the OBC.
In great part because the Council are six years late in starting this work, the conclusion of the Interim OBC is that pier extension (estimated at £11 million) will not go ahead. It is deemed poor value for money, now that it is likely to be in use for a relatively short time.
It is more clear than ever therefore that the only viable short-term remedy for our fragile and congested ferry service is the purchase of the catamaran that remains on offer to CMAL. The catamaran could fix our summer congestion (in a normal non-Covid year!); berth overnight in Craignure year-round, transforming our timetable; allow the Coruisk to return to the route she was built for, and a lot more – and without making any changes to Craignure Pier at all.
We are responding to the interim consultation by making it clear that any decision which results in a) the inability of the long-planned replacement of the Coruisk to happen, or b) prevents the introduction of the long-demanded Island Focussed Timetable, is completely unacceptable.
We are the only major island in the network that cannot build its timetable around the ability to berth the ferry on the island year round, and Craignure-Oban is the most congested of all CalMac services. If there is no interim pier improvement, or no effort to purchase the catamaran, our main ferry service will remain un-improved for the next 10 years.
Regarding the long-term options for complete pier replacement –
The object of the long-term OBC is to arrive at a preferred option (out of the four presented).
There are two aspects to the long-term plans: On one hand, this is a critical piece of transport infrastructure upon which our islands depend; and on the other hand, it is a major and imposing piece of development in a small island village. For the OBC to do it’s job properly and allow the best decision in respect of both of these aspects, it needs to be far more comprehensive and considered than it currently is.
There is nothing substantive in the OBC that identifies which option will provide the safest and most reliable berth for our ferries. As currently presented therefore, it fails to give adequate information for anyone to decide which option offers the best berthing solution. This is really important – Brodick has recently gone through this same process, and the pier that has been built is more vulnerable to easterly winds than the one it replaces. Despite tens of millions of pounds of investment, Arran now has a less reliable ferry service as a result.
Regarding the second aspect of the development – that it is a major and imposing piece of development in a small village – the outline schemes are far too simplistic, having been developed over the past year without any local consultation. They have understandably caused great consternation in Craignure. It is critical that the ‘shore-side’ works – marshalling lanes, bus stances, car parking and terminal building etc, are designed to function well – but are also sympathetic to the village, and designed with the detailed involvement of the Craignure community.
Finally, a note on vessel size and pier size. There is clear consensus on our islands that Mull should never be served by the 100m ferries that seem increasingly to be a feature of the CalMac fleet. We want sufficient capacity, but for that to be achieved by maximising service frequency before ferry size. There is a fear however, that because the new pier will be sized to accept the largest ferries, that the default will be a huge 801/802 – style solution for Mull. We are very clear that when plans are formed for new ferries they must meet our needs and aspirations, and not be prescribed to us, as appears to have so often been the case on other islands. The largest 100m-long ferries are a reality of the fleet however, and there will be occasions (weather disruption, dry-dock relief) when they will need to berth in Craignure.
Please go along to the Council’s online consultation pages if you haven’t already. You can also let us know how you feel about the future options for Craignure pier by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org , and we will make sure we include your views in our response.