Ferry subsidy fails to attract bids

Despite the combined efforts of the Scottish Parliament and the NIO, together offering an annual subsidy of £1million to the winning bid to operate a revived ferry route between Argyll and Northern Ireland for a 5 year period.. of the four ferry operators invited to tender – Harrison’s (Clyde) Ltd, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Serco Denholm and Western Ferries – none put forward a bid… and no-one else seems interested either.

  • Crataegus

    A pity as it had the potential to be good for tourism if properly marketed. I was on it several times; interesting route but I thought the marketing somewhat poor.

  • Bretagne

    Not surprising – Moyle District Council got a number of suggestion from interested people locally which they chose to ignore in designing the tender. Had the offer been a smaller subsidy to operate Ballycastle-Oban (even with a once a week call in to Campbelltown) then there would be useful service to the Gateway of the Isles and a strong offer against the low cost airlines.
    Not being funny – I know Ballycastle is not the centre of the world – but Campelltown is absolutuey nowwhere.

  • Crataegus

    As a matter of interest anyone know what ever happened to the idea of a ferry from Carrick to Bangor?


    I hear talk that some people are planning a ferry route to Scotland, but it is only sheduled to run one way.

  • Glen Taisie

    Bretagne your reference to Moyle District Council is less than generous as it is principally the Scottish Office supported by the NIO who had responsibility for the ferry and the tendering process.

    In October 2005 I Flew to Edinburgh for £11.75 no ferry can complete wit hthat level of competition.

  • Bretagne

    Glen Taise –
    THe NIO was putting up 30% of the subsidy.

    Re level of competition – I completely agree – the service should not have been competing with
    Cairnryan/Stranraer destined service or Glasgow /Edinburgh air services. If I was going to Edinburgh -as I did last year – I would take the ferry to Cairnryan. The journey to Edinburgh from Campbelltown, though, is 5.5 hrs – that makes the argument that this was never going to be a going conern, None from four potential tenders tells its own story.

    My point is Campbelltown is not close enough to
    the Highlands, nor close enough to Oban (as the Gateway to the Western Isles), nor close enough to Edi/GLas – it is the wrong destination.

    A service to Oban though would have linked Ballycastle to the main ferry links to the isles.

    The tender could have allowed a Ballycastle-Oban link (with a weekly call into Campbelltown) and still have qualified for the subsidy).

    Alas, the hamfisted way the tender was pur together precluded this option by focussing on the wrong route. MDC has a part in designing the tender – I’ve seen some of the submissions to the MDC on this subject (not my me I hasten to add) -and they are compelling in terms of the thoughput through Oban each season. MDC could have lobbbied the Scottish Exec to allow Oban as the premium port – it missed nad badly.

  • Bretagne

    Glen Taisie – apologies for spelling the Glen name wrong!

  • Crataegus


    I found your posts very interesting and agree. How much longer would it take to go up to Oban?

    I found the service great if visiting the highlands but the drive up to Oban one could do without.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “but Campelltown is absolutuey nowwhere”

    Campbelltown may be a hole, but it has the best off licence in Scotland for whiskies

  • Bretagne


    A realistic Ballycastle to Oban timeframe would be five and a half hours. (though in theory it could be completed in three and a half with a Seacat type service)

    A car journey starting Ballycastle to Fort William used to take 3hrs to Campbeltown, and 6 hrs to Fort William – so 9 hrs.

    Via Oban – this would be be five hrs on the water + and hour and a half to Fort William – a
    fair time benefit. Liklihhod to use the route then depends on tariffs.

    (I think the journey from say Stranraer to Fort William takes the same time as from Campbeltown
    to Fort William – so no benfit to using Ballycastle route – for anyone Belfast or south of it.

    I think the draw though to Oban would be the proximity to the isles and the potential for visitors here to include Ballycastle Area as an island-hopper destination from Scotland.


  • Crataegus



    It’s an interesting idea and I am inclined to agree.

  • Issues re a Ballycastle – Oban route

    1. It would not attract a subsidy and could not operate at a profit, the trade is not there.

    2. The sea crossing would be 6 – 7 hours plus and extreamely unconfortable and cost a fortune to take your car on.

    3. the Route from Campbeltown to Fortwilliam is at least one hour shorter than from Carinryan.

  • DK

    “In October 2005 I Flew to Edinburgh for £11.75 no ferry can complete wit hthat level of competition.”

    Did you take your car? Different category of customers.