Dunoon ferry terminal

Public consultation - Dunoon/Kilcreggan ferry terminals

Transport Scotland has made a commitment to provide new passenger-only vessels for the Dunoon to Gourock ferry service. The vessels are expected to enter service from November 2025, however, the ferry terminal infrastructure at Dunoon, Kilcreggan and Gourock will need to be upgraded  to ensure safe and reliable berthing and Equality Act 2010 compliant access.

Why is the project being undertaken?

The purpose of this briefing and consultation page is:

  1. To inform you of Argyll and Bute Council’s (ABC) progress on developing solutions to accommodate the new ferries at Dunoon and Kilcreggan.
  2. Gain feedback on the proposed preferred option for ferry terminal upgrades at Dunoon.

This webpage focuses solely on the proposed Dunoon project.

This page explains why the Council is undertaking the project and  provides a summary of the engineering options developed, the preferred option and its benefits.  It also provides ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ and responses specifically relating to the Dunoon component of the overall project.

The feedback received from this consultation will be used to further develop, refine and finalise plans.

The consultation ran for a period of six weeks from 24th November 2022 to 9th January 2023, and we will update the FAQs below as the consultation progresses based on the questions and feedback received.

Project to date

The first stage of the project, the Strategic Business Case, was undertaken by Transport Scotland and was completed in August 2020. It identified that:

  • The infrastructure at Dunoon and Kilcreggan ferry terminals should be improved to ensure that the berths can accommodate the planned future vessels to be used on the routes
  • The resilience and reliability of both the Gourock-Dunoon and Gourock-Kilcreggan passenger only ferry services should be improved
  • Improvements should be made to passenger access to the vessels at Gourock, Dunoon and Kilcreggan

The Strategic Business Case did not develop engineering options for the infrastructure at Dunoon.

This current stage of the project, the Outline Business Case, develops and appraises ferry terminal infrastructure options at Dunoon, arriving at a preferred option and identifying how this will be funded, procured and delivered.

The proposed preferred option, which is presented below, has been selected following appraisal against project specific objectives and the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) criteria. The proposed preferred option has also been agreed with the project Working Group and the project Reference Group, which includes representation from community bodies.

The Working Group consists of Transport Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) and CalMac Ferries Ltd (CFL). The Working Group is the key decision maker for the wider project and ensures that all aspects of the ferry service are considered. Argyll and Bute Council’s Harbour Board determines decisions relating to the council’s harbour infrastructure.

For Dunoon and Kilcreggan, there is a wider Reference Group consisting of ABC, Dunoon Community Council, Cove and Kilcreggan Community Council, Gourock Community Council, Inverclyde Community Council, Inverclyde Council, HMNB Clyde and the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS). The Reference Group is consulted at key stages of the project. Each member of the group represents the views of a wider group including ferry users, the local and wider communities and commercial users etc.

The Outline Business Case stage of the project will be reported to the Council, Working Group and Reference Group during early 2023 and will be published thereafter.

The timelines for the overall programme will be determined through the wider Gourock Dunoon Kilcreggan Vessels and Infrastructure Project.

Project objectives

There are several requirements for the ferry berth at Dunoon that have been established through a combination of the Strategic Business Case, discussion with relevant personnel from Argyll and Bute Council and CFL. These are:  

  • One berth is to be provided for the berthing of new and existing passenger-only vessels, including relief vessels
  • The Dunoon ferry berth should improve service reliability by addressing the current problem of vessels moving on the berth and causing services to be suspended
  • The approaches are to allow safe navigation for ferries at all states of the tide
  • Facilities should allow for continued use by PS Waverley
  • Improved passenger access to ferries to meet current legislation and guidance
  • Suitable passenger waiting facilities should be maintained - these are to be located in close proximity to the ferry berth
  • Access to onward transport connections is to be located in close proximity to the ferry berth
  • The infrastructure should be future-proofed, allowing for increased passenger numbers and future physical expansion of the ferry terminal

Several options have been developed with the aim of meeting the above agreed project requirements.

Each infrastructure option has been appraised against project specific Transport Planning Objectives (TPOs) and Transport Scotland's Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) Criteria.

The STAG Criteria is available on page 25 of the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance.

The TPOs are formed with reference to the problems, issues, opportunities and constraints specific to this project. These are listed below:

  1. The provision of appropriate terminal infrastructure capable of accommodating the in-scope vessels for a minimum 60-year window.
  2. The future infrastructure including local approaches should improve the reliability and punctuality of scheduled services. 
  3. The future terminal infrastructure should provide Equality Act 2010 compliant access to ferry services as far as practicable.  
  4. Minimise any negative service impacts by managing the construction works and the phased introduction of new vessels. 
  5. Infrastructure designs should maximise flexibility in future use by passenger ferry services and other users. 

Initial option development and appraisal

Several engineering options for the future ferry berth at Dunoon were developed. These options included:

  • Using the existing ferry berth location
  • Creating a new ferry berth in front of the Victorian Pier
  • Creating a new ferry berth to the north of the Victorian Pier
  • Moving the ferry berth to the south of the existing breakwater
  • Moving the ferry berth north to the Coal Pier in the corner of East Bay

Variations of each option were developed to further explore each location in more detail.  For context, a single variation of each option is presented below. Some options were not viable (either operationally, environmentally or financially) and were sifted out early in the process. These are therefore not presented.

Option 1 - Using the existing ferry berth location

Dunoon Option 1

Option 2 - Providing a new ferry berth in front of the Victorian Pier to the south

Dunoon Option 2

Option 3 - Providing a new ferry berth in front of the Victorian Pier to the north

Dunoon Option 3 

Option 4 - Providing a new ferry berth to the south of the existing breakwater

Dunoon Option 4

Option 5 - Providing a new ferry berth to the north, at the Coal Pier in the corner of East Bay

Dunoon Option 5

Prior to the detailed appraisal process, several of the option variations were discounted to eliminate any layouts that could not realistically meet the project objectives e.g., those that may cause unnecessary disruption, will be too expensive or require extensive maintenance dredging.

The options taken forward to the appraisal process were:

Option 1c – Modification of the existing linkspan to fit the new ferry and breakwater extended to provide additional shelter

Dunoon Option 1c

Option 1d – New passenger access system design for new ferry and breakwater extended to provide additional shelter

Dunoon Option 1d

Option 2c – New pontoon berth in front of southern end of Victorian Pier and breakwater extended to provide additional shelter

Dunoon Option 2c

Option 3b – New pontoon berth to the north of the Victorian Pier and new breakwater to provide shelter

Dunoon Option 3b

Option 4c – New pontoon berth to the south of the existing breakwater and new breakwater to create new harbour area

Dunoon Option 4c 

The appraisal process provided the following outcomes based on the previously mentioned TPOs and STAG criteria.

  • Option 1c (modify linkspan to incorporate a gangway to fit new vessel and include breakwater extension to provide improved shelter at the berth). As an output of the appraisal, this option will not be considered further due to less favourable navigational / manoeuvring areas, potential restrictions on vessel access and limited improvements to passenger access.
  • Option 1d (remove linkspan, install pontoon berth with access via a gangway, include breakwater extension to provide improved shelter at the berth). This option includes a long gangway onto a pontoon, which increases the distance between the end of the vessel and the breakwater, improving access for passengers and navigational safety for the ferry. This is considered the ‘proposed preferred option’ at this stage and, subject to feedback, agreement and sign-off, will be further developed once further passenger-only vessel details are confirmed.
  • Option 2c (new pontoon berth in front of Victorian Pier, access via long passenger gangway, include breakwater extension to provide improved shelter at the berth). As an output of the appraisal, this option will not be considered further as it precludes future redevelopment of the Victorian Pier and the berth will be more exposed.
  • Option 3b (new ferry terminal to north of Victorian Pier). As an output of the appraisal, this option will not be considered further due to navigational considerations and the environmental impact of the proposed works.
  • Option 4c (new ferry terminal to south of existing, with new breakwater to provide sheltered basin). As an output of the appraisal, this option will not be considered further due to navigational consideration and the environmental impact of the proposed works.

To confirm, the proposed preferred option involves the removal of the current linkspan. This is due to:

  • The statutory obligation to comply with the Equality Act and its provisions in relation to access for all. The current linkspan is not capable of being modified to provide appropriate gradients over the tidal range.
  • There is an ongoing cost and risk to the Council in retaining the linkspan, which represents poor value for money relative to other harbour infrastructure pressures.  Any spend on maintaining the linkspan would also be at the expense of investment elsewhere in the harbour estate.
  • The current linkspan is 19 years old and, given the current commitment is for new passenger-only ferries, it is likely that the lifespan of the linkspan would expire should any potential future RoRo service emerge.

In the event that Scottish Ministers have a change of policy, and a future roll on roll off, vehicle service is promoted, the Council will undertake an appropriate appraisal of options to accommodate that service at the relevant point in time. 

Proposed preferred option 

To summarise, the proposed preferred option is as shown.

Dunoon Option 1d 

The key features of the emerging preferred option include:

  • The existing, redundant linkspan will be removed
  • A pontoon will be installed to provide near-level access onto the new ferry at all states of the tide
  • Access to the pontoon will be via a covered gangway of shallow gradient
  • The existing breakwater will be extended to the north to provide shelter at the ferry berth, thus reducing movement of the vessel on the berth and thereby improving service reliability
  • The breakwater extension will also serve as the berth for the PS Waverley
  • Dredging will be required within the harbour area to accommodate the new ferries

Project benefits

The benefits of the proposed preferred option are summarised below:

  • The improved passenger access arrangements will improve access for all through reducing gradients and providing shelter from the weather
  • The improved shelter on the ferry berth will improve the reliability of the ferry service
  • The improved reliability of the ferry service will improve interchange with connecting public transport (by rail, bus, etc.) from Gourock
  • Off-site fabrication of the pontoon aims to minimise disruption of ferry services during the construction of the works
  • The proposed infrastructure will be able to accommodate both the existing and the new ferries, safeguarding the service during the period of transition

What happens next?

We will consider the feedback received from this consultation prior to the final decision being made on the option to be taken forward..

Once a consensus is reached, the final option will be developed in more technical detail and the Outline Business Case will be completed, recommending the selected option.

The outputs of the business case will be considered and confirmed by the Argyll  and Bute Council Harbour Board, who will thereafter explore funding options.

Frequently asked questions

Why is the Council proposing works at Dunoon Ferry Terminal?

Transport Scotland has committed to the provision of new passenger-only vessels for the Dunoon – Gourock ferry service.

As a result, Argyll and Bute Council is required to ensure that Dunoon ferry terminal can safely and reliably accommodate these ferries, whilst also improving the passenger access arrangements to meet current standards.

Information about new and existing vessels can be found in Presentation 1 and 2 on the dedicated project page available on the CMAL website (CMAL Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd Gourock, Dunoon, Kilcreggan programme - CMAL Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (cmassets.co.uk))

Why is a car ferry service not being provided?

In line with Scottish Government policy, new passenger-only vessels are being provided. This project supports provision of infrastructure upgrades required to accommodate the new passenger-only vessels.

What will the Council deliver at Dunoon?

The proposed preferred option includes the removal of the existing linkspan and replacing it with a covered gangway onto a pontoon from which passengers can access the new ferries.Dredging and an extension to the existing breakwater will also be carried out to provide additional shelter on the ferry berth.

Dunoon Option 1d 

Why is this investment necessary?

Transport Scotland has committed to the provision of new passenger-only vessels for the Dunoon – Gourock ferry service. This project is required to ensure that Dunoon ferry terminal can safely and reliably accommodate these ferries, whilst also ensuring legislatively compliant passenger access arrangements.

Will there be a consultation process prior to the preferred option being finalised?

Yes, that is what this information is provided to support. This consultation runs from 24th November 2022 for six weeks and can be completed at the bottom of this page. Hard copies are available on request by contacting MarineConsultation@argyll-bute.gov.uk.

Will the Victorian Pier be affected?

This project does not directly affect the Victorian Pier. Any future Dunoon waterfront projects will explore options for the waterfront and the Victorian Pier.

How will the PS Waverley be affected by the works at Dunoon?

The proposed preferred option will accommodate the PS Waverley in a similar location and orientation to the existing arrangements.

Reliable vessels are required to provide certainty for commuters, people attending hospital appointments, travelling on-holiday, shopping etc. How will this be achieved?

The ferries are being specifically designed to meet the needs of the route and the Dunoon works are subsequently being designed to accommodate these vessels, with a view to improving overall route reliability and resilience.

Consultation

The consultation closed on 9th January 2023. The feedback received from this consultation will be used to further develop, refine and finalise plans.