Feb 082010


MAC’s UK correspondent William Redmond reports on an unusual initiate that might fix the problem of ferries and piers:

Trying to avoid pier collisions is an ever-present hazard for ferries but the UK national bus operator, Stagecoach Group, may have the answer following hard on the heels of a ferry collision on the Kintyre Peninsula. At about 9.30 GMT on February 6th, the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, the mv Isle of Arran, was reversing into the harbour at Kennacraig when it collided with the pier. None of the 14 passengers was hurt.

A spokesman for the ferry company said that early indications were that a mechanical fault was to blame. Damage to the pier was thought not to be too severe but the left hand linkspan and passenger walkway were put out of action and one report claimed that the ferry was holed and will now go in for a scheduled maintenance service two days early, causing the timetable to be amended.

The Stagecoach Group solution to pier dodging is the Amfibus, an amphibious bus that needs only a slipway. The £700,000 Dutch made vehicle, which can carry 50 passengers, begins a two-day trial on February 8th, following successful trials in Rotterdam, in the hope that it will replace the pending closure of the 500-year old, loss-making ferry service between Renfrew and Yoker on the river Clyde.

Brian Souter, chief executive of the Stagecoach Group, is understandably excited by this new, peerless development which “will provide a seamless bus connection between two important local communities. Passengers can use the Amfibus over road and water without having to leave the comfort of their seats to change from a bus to a ferry. It shows the potential of Scotland’s rivers and estuaries to be links rather than barriers to travel and we are looking forward to testing the technology on the Clyde,” he said. It seems, however, that there could be one slight problem. The slipway in its present form will only work at high tides.

But what are the implications for safety? Should the drivers undergo marinising so that they can tell their port from starboard and that power much always give way to sail? Then there is the ever-present, thorny issue of lifeboat drill. Passengers, perhaps, may need to bring their own life jackets.


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