Alan Simpson: How Thomas the Tank Engine’s chums can solve Scotland’s ferry crisis

MUCH-loved children’s favourite Thomas the Tank Engine is undergoing a revamp for the 21st Century, which will see all the characters given sleek new images fit for the digital age.

Since the Rev W Awdry’s first book which he read to his son in 1943, the tales of Thomas, James, Henry and Gordon have enchanted generations of children.

Now a few more generations will be able to enjoy the tales after the makeover which is good news for railway lovers.

It is also a golden opportunity for Scotland’s creaking transport system to get a much-needed boost by buying up the old rolling stock ahead of the rail network being nationalised next year.

Who wouldn’t love to see James the Red Engine puffing his way up the Highland mainline with a smile on his face, despite running three hours late due to signalling problems at Perth.

But of course, what should be of more interest to Transport Scotland are the fleet of smiling boats amongst Thomas’s friends.

These could all be bought too and used to plug the gaps on Scotland’s ferry network, which has suffered severe disruption over the summer due to the ageing fleet breaking down regularly.

Little, happy vessels like Lucinda the barge could undergo a refit and plough up and down the west coast.

Obviously she would need a hybrid green engine put in, a bulbous bow fitted and a staff accommodation deck installed and then she would be ready to join the CalMac fleet around 2046. At a cost of around £345m at the current rate.

Thomas’s big chum Bulstrode could easily do the big runs across the Minch to the Western Isles while Captain the wee tug boat could do some of the smaller journeys on the Clyde.

But the biggest bonus would be the train ferry which appears in the books, which could prove a godsend at ports like Oban or Mallaig where trains can just roll onto the boat and bypass CalMac altogether.

They won’t have anywhere to go once on an island obviously, but at least they got there, which is more than can be said for many CalMac ferries at the moment.

The problems on Scotland’s ferry network, of course, are no laughing matter and are a national disgrace. It is not CalMac’s fault though as the staff can only work with what they have been given and that is a fleet that is well past its working life.

The shambolic procurement system and the fiasco of the two ferries currently still in the shipyard years out of date and millions of pounds over budget should have resulted in heads rolling by now .

But nobody is yet to take responsibility for the complete shambles that is costing the island economies millions of pounds.

If CMAL and Transport Scotland were in the private sector, management would have been sacked by now but instead they just plough on playing fast and loose with public cash.

It’s enough to wipe the smile off even Thomas’s face.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992