Inflatable for the next Renfrew Ferry?

12 Feb 2010

by Rebecca Gray, Evening Times

Believe it or not, but a tiny inflatable craft could replace the doomed Renfrew Ferry, due to be axed next month.

The inflatable boat is being touted as a possible replacement for the existing ferry service.

But while the current vessels, The Renfrew Rose and Yoker Swan can carry more than 50 passengers, the latest boat can hold no more than a dozen.

The idea comes just days after an 'amfibus' trial on the same route had troubles with a "technical hitch".

Today council chiefs said the search for a ferry replacement was still in its early stages. Renfrewshire Council leader Derek Mackay said: "We are hopeful we will find an appropriate replacement, but what that is, at this stage, we just don't know."

Argyll-based Silvers Marine is the company behind the latest idea which was tried out on the river yesterday.

The firm say similar boats are already used in London and Ireland.

Last month, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, which runs the Renfrew Ferry, decided the service would be withdrawn, saving £400,000 a year.

The Evening Times first revealed SPT Chairman Alistair Watson was in talks with private firms about a replacement service.

Last week, Stagecoach's 'amfibus' took part in trials on the river.

The futuristic £700,000 Dutch vehicle would run by road from Braehead to the Renfrew Ferry slipway, cross the Clyde to Yoker and then travel on by road to Clydebank.

However, the floating bus broke down less than an hour after testing began and the trail had to be resumed the following day.

And now, Silvers Marine's inflatable boat looks set to be the latest solution to the axed route.

Managing director of Silvers Marine, Mark Aikman said: "We believe that our idea is a sensible, cost-effective alternative to the Renfrew Ferry. This trial is just to prove our technology and no members of the public will be getting on board the vessel. If everything goes to plan, we will be carrying out another trial next week."

Mr Aikman added that all of the company's fleet have removable roofs so that passengers will be protected from wind and rain.

The company already provides water transport services to mooring customers at McGruers Yard in Rosneath and are in talks with the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority about providing a scheduled fast ferry service on Loch Lomond in 2010.

Derek Mackay, leader of Renfrewshire Council, was against the scrapping of the historic ferry route, insisting that the it provided a lifeline service linking people with jobs and services on both sides of the Clyde.

Councillor Mackay said: "Although I haven't seen this latest replacement option, I do believe that whatever replaces the Renfrew Ferry will be something new and different. Currently, we are working with several members of the private sector and we are looking to ensure that the ferry service continues after March."

SPT's Mr Watson said of the latest trial: "This looks more like a traditional option than other trials that have taken place. However, it does indicate that there are private firms that see there is a market for a ferry crossing. SPT are delighted to assist these trails in any that we can. This company are just one of many that we are in talks with. Once we have assessed the trials, we will take it from there."

Ian Ward, 53, from West Kilbride, has used the Renfrew Ferry in the past and was watching this latest round of trials yesterday.

He said: "The boat definitely looks very sea-worthy and from watching this morning, I imagine you could make the journey across in no time at all. Although I'm not sure if you would manage to take a bike on-board this boat, which is a shame.

"It's sad to see the old ferry go but its good that there are people out there who are coming up with suitable alternatives."

The Renfrew Ferry will sail for the last time on March 31 after almost six centuries.

SPT are now in discussions with the crossing's eight staff about the possibility of them transferring to other transport operations, such as the Glasgow Subway.

Reproduced with the permission of the Herald and Times Group.

  • The Renfrew Ferry route between Yoker in the north and Renfrew Riverside on the south bank

Web links (opens in a new window)