23rd September 2018
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Stout defence made over Serco’s ferry record

5 comments, , by , in Headlines, News

The chairman of the SIC environment and transport committee has come to the defence of Serco and its record in providing the isles with its lifeline ferry service.

Michael Stout last night told community councillors in Lerwick that the company’s record in providing a service between Aberdeen and the isles was hard to fault.

His comments came after a letter was sent from Bute Community Council seeking information about the ferry operator’s punctuality and reliability.

The Bute representatives also want to know how the Serco service compares with the old NorthLink operator.

“I was instructed to write to community councils in Shetland and Orkney asking for information about Serco’s performance and how it compares with that of the previous operator,” wrote Bute’s secretary Mick Common.

“Members of Bute Community Council were particularly interested in whether there had been any timetable changes, punctuality and reliability.”

Serco has almost been a dirty word on the west coast, following strike action among RMT Union members working on the lifeline ferries currently operated by Cal Mac.

The dispute has been triggered by the tendering of Clyde and Hebrides ferry services, which could see private company Serco become the new operator.

Concerns have been running high since it emerged the 2012 bid by the public sector actually undercut Serco’s tender, but was rejected by the Scottish government.

Mr Stout told members of the community council he had fielded similar inquiries from other people.

“The standard answer is, through the external transport forum, it’s fair to say Serco have been more than happy to be relatively open about details of their operation, including some commercial aspects,” Mr Stout said.

“In terms of how they’ve operated the service within the constraints of their contract, it’s difficult to be critical.”

The meeting heard it was difficult to give information back without being subjective.

That led community councillor John Fraser to advise not responding to the Bute representatives at all.

“If we were going to respond we’d need to be subjective and we’d need facts and figures,” he said. “We’d be making rods for our own backs.”

Mr Fraser said the community council was not the correct forum to provide the information Bute was looking for.

Chairman Jim Anderson said the service had been as punctual and as reliable as the previous, publicly-owned NorthLink service. But there had been requests for timetable changes which had gone unheeded.

The meeting agreed a letter would be sent back to Bute, stating the information requested would be freely available from Transport Scotland.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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5 comments

  1. David Spence

    I would like Mr Stout to give justification for the unusual circumstance as to how a company with little or no experience in this industry got the contract at all.

    As well as this, to give justification why one company’s tender which was cheaper, but was returned to them unopened.

    If you based the decision on the tendering process, it does, very much, beg the question ‘ How on Earth did Serco ever get the contract? ‘.

    Now Mr Stout, you cannot say ‘ They were the cheapest ‘ as this have been proven not to be the case.

    I would like to ask Mr Stout ‘ Is there a connection between the company Serco and the Conservative Party? ‘. Based on how the Tories admire this company so much by giving them so much work, would one have to question whether indeed there was a relationship or some kind of underhand deal going on between them where commercial interests, on the part of both parties, takes greater priority.

    I am not implying in any way that there is…………but when one digs deeper, lets just say the company Serco, have indeed given ‘ financial support ‘ to the Tories…………for the purposes of what, one may ask????

    Reply
    • Ian Mundie

      All I can say about David Spence’s comments are “Hear, Hear”

      Reply
  2. Ali Inkster

    “as punctual and reliable as the previous, publicly owned Northlink service”. Not very reliable then

    Reply
  3. David Spence

    Ali, I do not think Serco is a publicly owned company………….I believe it is a ‘ private company ‘ supposed to be doing a ‘ public service ‘ but like all private based businesses, greed, selfish and profits are its main objectives, regardless to how this affects the public or the Tax Payer.

    I would also question the higher than normal times it has cancelled or delayed leaving port………is this because of cutting costs/increasing profits based on the funds it gets from the Scottish Office or not sailing in the slightest bit of wind incase it gets sued by a passenger due to, regretfully, our more and more yank based legal system………..where they, representatives of our new market based legal system, are more interested in selfishness, greed and profits than providing proper justice for the rich and next to nothing for everybody else.

    It is very obvious, Serco are in it for themselves, and to maximize as much profit as they can by whatever means possible……..by hook or (like most capitalists) crook.

    Reply
  4. Michael Stout

    Might be worth re-reading the article Mr. Spence – my ‘stout defence’ (and that’s the headline used up now Ryan..!) does not extend to broader areas of the company’s behaviour and record outside its delivery of the current contract, nor any aspect of the tendering process. You may be interested in the following articles..

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/02/serco-rupert-soames-outsourcing-privatisation

    https://commonspace.scot/articles/1707/jen-stout-why-the-crisis-facing-calmac-is-too-important-for-political-scrapping-and-should-concern-us-all

    There are plenty of legitimate concerns and questions about how lifeline Scottish ferry routes are funded and managed, which is why, in a departure from previous practice, ZeTrans, HiTrans, SIC and OIC are now actively working together with Transport Scotland in the run up to the 2018 Northern Isles Ferry Contract.

    My comments at the Lerwick Community Council were made to highlight that it’s those underlying issues which have to be addressed, both here and on the West coast; the level of service, and cost to the user, (including issues such as timetabling etc.), will relate primarily to the terms of the contract irrespective of operator.

    I remain deeply unimpressed by the decision to install seat dividers…

    Reply

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