Will these ferries ever set sail? New row as vessels fall even further behind schedule and go increasingly over budget
- Two ferries promised by SNP ministers were due to start taking passengers five years ago
- But fiasco surrounding the boats deepened as more delays announced and boss admits costs ‘significantly understated’
Islander have been ‘betrayed’ by the SNP Government amid soaring costs and fresh delays to two new ferries, it was claimed last night.
Shipyard bosses admitted yesterday they had ‘significantly understated’ the increase in the vessels’ costs by £10million – which amounts to a total rise of £24million in only three months.
It means the potential price of completing the ferries could reach £400million, nearly four times the original estimate.
Despairing islanders are still waiting for the two reliable ferries that were promised by SNP ministers.
Both vessels, the Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa, are now five years past their 2018 completion date.
But the latest delays now mean that the Glen Rosa will not be in service until at least May 2025, with questions mounting about whether the boats will ever set sail.
The Ferguson Marine shipyard is years behind with the construction of the two ferries
Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser described Scottish Government-owned shipyard Ferguson Marine as a ‘black hole’ for public money.
Referring to the two unbuilt ferries, he added: ‘I will be surprised if either of them ever end up in the water.’
SNP ministers awarded a £97million contract in 2015 to the independence-supporting tycoon Jim McColl to build the two ferries at the Port Glasgow shipyard – which subsequently collapsed and was taken into public ownership.
A scandal also erupted around how the contract was won after it emerged that the Scottish Government colluded with Ferguson Marine before bidding began, leading to accusations that the deal was ‘rigged’.
The anticipated cost of finishing the vessels now stands at £368.5million, although the shipyard has said that it could go up by another £30million for the ‘worst-case contingency’.
David Tydeman, chief executive of Ferguson Marine, yesterday admitted failing to calculate the completion costs correctly.
In a letter to Holyrood’s public audit committee, he confessed: ‘I significantly underestimated the total forecast cost to complete Glen Sannox, for which I apologise.’
Mr Tydeman also confirmed that the Glen Sannox is not due to be ready until the end of March next year – and that the Glen Rosa completion date will be pushed back by another five months until May 31, 2025.
However, he warned that there are ‘still risks of issues arising’ with the Glen Sannox during trials.
Mr Tydeman said: ‘Our ability to guarantee completion by March 31, 2024, will thus depend on how well the trials progress.’
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: ‘The SNP’s shambolic handling of building these two new lifeline ferries means taxpayers’ money is continuing to be wasted on an astonishing scale. Successive SNP transport ministers have betrayed islanders time and time again.
‘It is simply disgraceful that it has been confirmed that they will now have to wait even longer for one of these vessels to be delivered, with the Hull 802 ferry [Glen Rosa] set to be seven years late.
‘Every update from Ferguson Marine involves more costs for the taxpayer or a further slip in the endless delays island communities have had to suffer.’
Mr Simpson said the ‘consequences of the ferry fiasco have been devastating for residents and the local economy in the areas affected’.
He said First Minister Humza Yousaf ‘must stop ducking responsibility and agree to a full independent inquiry into this shameful waste of money’.
Warning that the nationalised shipyard must not be given a ‘blank cheque at the public’s expense’, Scottish Labour transport spokesman Alex Rowley said: ‘The blame for ever-increasing costs and delays lies squarely with the Scottish Government, [ferry procurement company] CMal and the history of management at Ferguson Marine for the complete failure to take charge.’
Scottish Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said: ‘Today, we find out that costs have risen again, delays have risen again and islanders are still expected to just suck it up. It’s time for the Government to demonstrate some accountability.’
The SNP’s Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: ‘This confirmation of further cost and delay is again extremely disappointing.’
‘I remain fully committed to both ensuring that these ferries are able to enter service as soon as possible and ensuring a long-term, sustainable future for the yard.’
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