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The North Boat (Northlink ferries)


peeriebryan
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Where should the North Boat dock?  

447 members have voted

  1. 1. Where should the North Boat dock?

    • Aberdeen
      223
    • Rosyth
      102
    • Peterhead
      11
    • Barbados
      125


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And if they held the ferry back every time someone phoned up to say they were running late? I can imagine how that would pan out.

 

Trains don't wait, buses don't wait, no other ferry company waits - try phoning Brittany Ferries etc and see if they'll hang around for late arrivals.......

And that is the hole in my argument (although I don't recall claiming that it should be held up every time)..  There will always be "exceptional" circumstances.  Problem is, there is no mechanism to decide what is "exceptional" but, I would have thought that someone returning from "life saving" treatment would have been ideally placed to claim some benefits(?) from our "lifeline" service.

 

 

Were they travelling back courtesy of transport provided by the NHS?  Somehow, I'm not getting the impression they all were because I think it's the case that the NHS only pay for one adult to travel with a child.  Did they phone the emergency hospital transport number so that the travel agency could have used their clout to try to get them on the last plane out at the airport?

 

Were Serco even told when they phoned up that they had a child with them, just days earlier having a major operation?  So on the one hand, the child is fit enough to travel, not just by road from Glasgow but also to go through a ferry journey as opposed to a one hour's flight?  It isn't the case that the baby wasn't fit to fly because said baby did the following day.

 

We don't know if they were foot passengers or car passengers.  We don't know how much info they gave to Serco.

 

The family, by the sounds of it, chose to travel by road, not train.  We don't know whether that was coach, a lift with a friend, or a hire car.  They chose to travel by road and ferry, not plane.  They chose not to factor in time delays and/or whether or not an overnight break for a baby recuperating from major surgery would have been a good idea.  Make your minds up; either a kid is fit for travel or it's not, don't use the baby's health as an excuse.

 

And I get the impression Serco can't win whatever they do.  Can't they get fined under the contract if they sail late?  They say they required a prompt sailing due to strong tides.

 

If this highlights anything is the fact that NHS travel allowances aren't enough because I'm getting the impression the family chose the road route as it was the cheapest, meaning they could all travel together as opposed to just one adult and one baby travelling back which would, no doubt, have resulted in a different mode of transport being chosen perhaps, like plane?  After all, the NHS were footing the bill?  I can't for the life of me fathom out why someone would choose the route back they did if it wasn't for cost implications.

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And if they held the ferry back every time someone phoned up to say they were running late? I can imagine how that would pan out.

 

Trains don't wait, buses don't wait, no other ferry company waits - try phoning Brittany Ferries etc and see if they'll hang around for late arrivals.......

And that is the hole in my argument (although I don't recall claiming that it should be held up every time)..  There will always be "exceptional" circumstances.  Problem is, there is no mechanism to decide what is "exceptional" but, I would have thought that someone returning from "life saving" treatment would have been ideally placed to claim some benefits(?) from our "lifeline" service.

 

 

Agreed, Colin,  Northlink have absolutely no idea if the person making the call to them has a genuine need or not. There's plenty of folk who will use any old cobblers as an excuse to get the ferry to wait for them.

 

I have a lot of sympathy for the family, I really do, but the only way around it would be for the NHS to verify the situation to Northlink directly - and I cannot see how it would be possible. The NHS are not responsible for people running late. So the situation, although regrettable, is unavoidable. People are going to get held up and miss things, that's the way it goes.

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While I have sympathy for the folk finiding themselves in such a crappy situation, and its regrettable that the boat doesn't feel it can't be a bit more flexible and "customer orientated". If someone plans to drive from Glasgow to Aberdeen on such a tight schedule that a delay as the result a diversion and tailbacks was enough to make them late, they were winging it a bit anyway and relying on all of their ducks lining up all the time.

 

Northlink certainly haven't done themselves any favours or won any friends from this, but to paint them as the sole villain of the piece is more than they deserve IMHO. Roads get closed and diversions put in place randomly everywhere for any number of reasons, tailbacks form likewise, vehicles break down....If you set out praying to god you'll get a clear run, or you won't get there on time, sometimes you get lucky, others not. Que sera sera.

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And if they held the ferry back every time someone phoned up to say they were running late? I can imagine how that would pan out.

 

Trains don't wait, buses don't wait, no other ferry company waits - try phoning Brittany Ferries etc and see if they'll hang around for late arrivals.......

 

The bottom line is they were just 3 minutes late to the terminal and had phoned ahead. I'm pretty sure there was still on/off access via the gangway and that staff were accessing the boat for a while after.

 

I don't know the exact details of the delay, but roadworks and tailbacks can easily add an hour or more. Aberdeen is a bad bottleneck when you're pushed towards that time of day, where it can be faster to get out and walk towards and down Market Street.

 

I've had several run ins with Northlink staff at Aberdeen, and this type of issue pre-dates government favourites Serco. Staff attitude is awful, and some rules just make no sense. But they are OCD about sticking to them and any sympathy or sense of morality seem to be non-existent.

Edited by tooney1
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To be fair to the check-in staff the Captain on the day is in charge and he has the final say.  Check-in closes at a set time after which the duty staff would have to get the Captain's permission to hang on for a little bit longer.  And this certainly pre-dates Serco or even Northlink.  Much the same at airports where the pilot has the final say about allowing late arrivals to board.  Indeed train doors are closed up to 40 seconds before departure and at my local bus stations the driver is not allowed to open the doors once they are closed for departure.  Hard life being a traveller but those are the rules.  Yes perhaps a pity in this case but it would be interesting to hear from check-in staff at Aberdeen (and Lerwick) just how often they get a call from someone who would be "a couple of minutes late".

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To be fair to the check-in staff the Captain on the day is in charge and he has the final say.  Check-in closes at a set time after which the duty staff would have to get the Captain's permission to hang on for a little bit longer.  And this certainly pre-dates Serco or even Northlink.  Much the same at airports where the pilot has the final say about allowing late arrivals to board.  Indeed train doors are closed up to 40 seconds before departure and at my local bus stations the driver is not allowed to open the doors once they are closed for departure.  Hard life being a traveller but those are the rules.  Yes perhaps a pity in this case but it would be interesting to hear from check-in staff at Aberdeen (and Lerwick) just how often they get a call from someone who would be "a couple of minutes late".

 

Some points:

  • Check-in staff don't always contact the captain and make the decision themselves.
  • This is a lifeline service we're talking about, not a train or bus that departs every half hour/hour. Plus if the boat does arrive late, it doesn't have to sail for at least another 10 hours after arrival! There's no knock-on schedule effect like a train, bus, or plane.
  • We're talking 3 minutes! It's not much to make up on a boat that takes 14 hours, but can leave passengers stranded for the next 24 hours at that time of night. 

P&O were always accommodating here, and I even seen them wheel the gangway back for late passengers in that half hour before sailing.

 

So why does the service have to be so ruthless?

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Reading Northlinks side on the Shetnews site, I have to say I have changed my mind from thinking they were being total jobsworths to agreeing with Northlink, as it does sound late in the day they phoned ahead to say they would be held up. Also if you star allowing people to phone ahead and hold up the boat where does it end? Also what happens if the boat waits and then the person is far later than they said or never even turn up, how long does a boat wait?

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They likely thought they were just going to make it then got snarled up in traffic in Aberdeen. It's grim being able to see the boat but being held up near Union St. Back in the old days you would phone up and, thanks to the goodwill of the P&O staff, they would hold the boat back by about 10 mins if necessary. Obviously you couldn't take the p1$$ and casually turn up ages later, but there was a sensible degree of flexibility. Given the duration of the journey, 10-15 mins is hardly a big deal - especially when we know that they slow the boat down deliberately (and not unreasonably) to allow for appropriate docking times.
 

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They likely thought they were just going to make it then got snarled up in traffic in Aberdeen. It's grim being able to see the boat but being held up near Union St. Back in the old days you would phone up and, thanks to the goodwill of the P&O staff, they would hold the boat back by about 10 mins if necessary. Obviously you couldn't take the p1$$ and casually turn up ages later, but there was a sensible degree of flexibility. Given the duration of the journey, 10-15 mins is hardly a big deal - especially when we know that they slow the boat down deliberately (and not unreasonably) to allow for appropriate docking times.

 

 

But this family didn't have a  "sensible degree of flexibility" on their part - they missed the boat.  They took the mickey by expecting the ferry to revolve around them.  Had they telephoned say 30 mins/an hour ahead, I bet they would have held the boat for them for a short duration of time.

 

4.33pm - tickets to print.

 

4.35pm at the earliest - get lift up one flight.

 

4.37pm - start walking cos hey, can't run with all that luggage, what with cot bed, baby and everything.  Can't leave it in left luggage cos it's already on its way to the boat ... which means it takes you longer to get to the boat.

 

They were pushing it.

 

That's assuming they were foot passengers.  If they were in a hire car from Aberdeen, hire car needed returning.  Granted, they give you a lift down to the ferry but sometimes you can wait 40 minutes for that.  Sometimes you can wait 30 minutes (or more) in the queue when returning a hire car.

 

Back in the good old days, as aforementioned, there were not so many Regulations.  Blow it, let them miss the boat.  Perish the thought of the boat going down, their bodies missing, and their grieving relatives demanding to know why their names weren't on the list as checked in.  Oh yeah, they just let them on.  Even if P&O were running it now, they would be faced with the Regulations which exist now, not back then.

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I don't know why everyone seems to be apologising(?) for Serco/Northlink and, although I would be the first to admit that there might be fault on both sides, I am having a problem getting past the fact that "the master wanted to leave 10 minutes early"

I just wonder if the family would have been allowed on board with a 'normal' departure time.

It may be counter productive but, if Serco/Northlink are going to be that strict about their boarding times then, they should also be obliged to apply the same measure to all other aspects of their schedule and not just "come and go" at the whims of the master..

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Think with a £800,000-00 per WEEK subsidy, there is not much coming over Northlink with large increases in freight, passengers and less dry docking now. 

 

You could dig a tunnel to Orkney pretty easy on this budget rather than cross subsidizing their Pentland service to compete again Pentland Ferries.

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But this family didn't have a  "sensible degree of flexibility" on their part - they missed the boat.  They took the mickey by expecting the ferry to revolve around them.  Had they telephoned say 30 mins/an hour ahead, I bet they would have held the boat for them for a short duration of time.

 

4.33pm - tickets to print.

 

4.35pm at the earliest - get lift up one flight.

 

4.37pm - start walking cos hey, can't run with all that luggage, what with cot bed, baby and everything.  Can't leave it in left luggage cos it's already on its way to the boat ... which means it takes you longer to get to the boat.

 

They were pushing it.

 

That's assuming they were foot passengers.  If they were in a hire car from Aberdeen, hire car needed returning.  Granted, they give you a lift down to the ferry but sometimes you can wait 40 minutes for that.  Sometimes you can wait 30 minutes (or more) in the queue when returning a hire car.

 

Back in the good old days, as aforementioned, there were not so many Regulations.  Blow it, let them miss the boat.  Perish the thought of the boat going down, their bodies missing, and their grieving relatives demanding to know why their names weren't on the list as checked in.  Oh yeah, they just let them on.  Even if P&O were running it now, they would be faced with the Regulations which exist now, not back then.

 

 

Until an official source can come with genuine and detailed reasons why it was impossible to accommodate this, I don't really accept such speculative timings and guess work.

 

There's 30 minutes between close of boarding and sailing, in this case 20 mins. If the boat had left the slip then fair enough, but in this case still plenty of time to print a ticket and get them on-board.

Edited by tooney1
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