There must be a place for catamarans in plans to replace Orkney’s ageing internal ferry fleet, according to SNP candidate for Orkney and Shetland, Robert Leslie.
Mr Leslie made the call as he supported a resolution from Paul Anderson of London branch on rural and island connectivity at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.
While ‘astronomical price tags’ for ferry replacements had been banded about, Mr Leslie said there was ‘a cheaper, more efficient and environmentally sustainable solution on the horizon’.
Referring to the Pentland Ferries catamaran MV Alfred, which is currently operating in the Western Isles, and to the recent Orkney Science Festival talk by Professor Alf Baird, Mr Leslie added: “Professor Alf Baird tells us that many more Alfreds could be built for the cost of the monohulls being finished just now.”
In that science festival presentation, A New Day for the Ferryman, Professor Baird showed that the increasing cost of the MV Glen Sannox, up from an original £50m to around £150m, meant that you could get 10 Alfreds – build cost of £14.5m – for the cost of one Glen Sannox.
Referring to the Glen Sannox and her sister ship, Professor Baird told the science festival audience that the cost of the two vessels had accelerated to ‘quite enormous proportions’, around £150m per vessel, £300m in total, ‘which would have been sufficient – and I’ve pointed this out to successive transport ministers at Holyrood – to replace pretty much the entire CalMac fleet with catamarans’.
Furthermore, lower annual operating costs, greater reliability, more deck capacity for vehicles, and higher efficiency strengthen the case for catamarans to be considered over monohulls.
In his presentation, Professor Baird argued that the successful leasing of the Alfred proved that there had been no requirement to build £50m monohulls – now costing £150m each.
He said: “It doesn’t make business sense, it doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s just a ridiculously poor decision, but the problem is the officials who made these decisions are largely still in place making more of the same decisions.
“The question that will come up in Orkney and also Shetland to some extent is for fleet replacement, which is now overdue certainly in Orkney, any tender should include catamarans; it must include catamarans. If they exclude catamarans they will just be incurring considerably more cost and also emissions.”
Mr Leslie also pointed out, in backing the connectivity resolution, that tunnels might also be part of the solution for both Orkney and Shetland.
He told the conference: “Orkney’s Churchill Barriers already prove that fixed links keep communities alive.
“Looking further north, we can see that tunnels might also play a part in ensuring our islands thrive rather than survive.
“Shetland already has plans to link some of its islands with tunnels, and I applaud Shetland Islands Council for presenting their vision and engaging positively with the Scottish and UK governments on this.
Having already spoken about the drivers of rural depopulation, including fuel poverty, which is inextricably linked to transport costs in rural and island areas, Mr Leslie said that the resolution would be crucial in stemming and reversing that trend.
He concluded: “I look forward to Orkney being able to engage in a regional forum to share ideas and best practice on connectivity and have pleasure in seconding this resolution.”
The conference backed the resolution, welcoming the proposed delivery of an Islands Connectivity Plan, and supporting the following measures to improve rural and islands transport connectivity:
- For the Scottish Government to publish a series of short-term (0-6 months), medium-term (6 months – 5 years) and long-term (5 – 20 years) objectives to improve rural and island transport connections.
- To support the creation of a dedicated Scottish Parliament Committee to oversee this progress and provide regular democratic scrutiny.
- To consult with local authorities and devolve further powers to enable them to oversee the development of existing and new transport routes.
- To propose a regional forum with neighbouring countries such as Ireland, Wales, the Faroe Islands and Norway to share ideas and best practices for improving connectivity in the islands and rural areas, including tunnels.