Wednesday, 12 January 2011
The Incredible Shrinking Ferry
In the bloom of her youth Mrs fbb used to travel, in her parents' shiny motor car, from Bearsden [remember it was a "den for bears" and get the pronunciation right, or else!] to holidays at Largs on the Clyde Coast. Until about 1960, the route was via the Renfrew Ferry - a long standing, chain-operated car ferry from Yoker on the north bank of the Clyde to (not surprisingly) Renfrew on the south.
The last car ferry was built in 1952 and lasted until 1984 after which it became a "popular nite spot" - called "The Ferry" and with glass "atrium" - now moored at Anderston Quay in central Glasgow.
Traffic in vehicles and workers making their way to industrial complexes on both sides of the river made the crossing very busy. Frequent trams, and later, buses, linked Renfrew with Paisley.
But by 1960 the spanking new Clyde Tunnel at Whiteinch, somewhat closer to Glasgow's centre, was complete. It had two big advantages over the ferry; it involved no waiting and it was FREE!. Vehicle use of the ferry was in terminal decline. Thus from 1984 onwards the car ferry was withdrawn and replaced by a smaller passenger boat operated by Strathclyde Passenger Transport.
Then in late 2009, SPT announced that it would no longer sustain the annual loss of over £500,000 and the ferry would close completely. Outrage! Haggis hurling at dawn! Have the politicians hung drawn and quartered! The decision was not popular.
Thus an independent operator was sought to take over.
Was it the silly season? Was it a huge publicity stunt? Or was it something to do with the replacement's start date, 1st April 2010? No, It was Stagecoach who arranged trials of the "amfibus" ...
Now humble Englishmen, living way south of Hadrian's wall, really did think this was a hoax - but no, it was a genuine trial; but probably not a realistic proposal. In the end a private operator was appointed to run a commercial service, with a traditional boat, at no cost to SPT.