What do cruise ships do for South Queensferry?

Passengers come ashore at Hawes Pier after disembarking MSC Magnifica Cruise Liner. Picture: TSPL
Passengers come ashore at Hawes Pier after disembarking MSC Magnifica Cruise Liner. Picture: TSPL
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THEY anchor in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, bringing thousands of visitors from all over the world and giving them the chance to sample the delights of Scotland’s capital.

But what impact does the increasing number of cruise ships disgorging their passengers at South Queensferry have on the town?

Businesses are glad to see extra customers but say the growth in visitors does not necessarily translate into a big trade boom.

And they agree with residents who say more needs to be done to cope with the influx – especially when it comes to parking.

Keith Giblett, chair of Queensferry and District Community Council, explained that the car park near the Hawes pier is closed all day when there is a cruise liner in so all the coaches can use it to pick up their passengers and take them on day or half-day trips to Edinburgh or elsewhere and then drop them off again when they return.

It means there are prolonged periods during the day when the car park is empty but no-one can use it. And the fear is that other tourists hoping to visit the town will then have difficulty finding anywhere to park and drive on.

“We think the use of the Hawes promenade needs to be rethought so it can cater for liner visitors and day-trippers at the same time,” said Mr Giblett.

“There should be some sort of stacking system so the coaches are brought in to pick up or drop off the passengers and then go off again – that would allow the car park to be used by other people for most of the day.

“We’ve had 21 liner visits this year, three of them overnight so that means about 25 days a year when the Hawes car park is not available. That puts pressure on what other car parking there is.”

And he said the public toilets near the Hawes pier were “pretty poor” too.

“We’re not against liners visiting Queensferry. What we want is improvements in the facilities.”

Kirstin Heggie, chair of the newly-formed Queensferry Business Association, said the local shops welcomed the cruise liner passengers.

“Generally the feedback I get is that having any visitors is fantastic. It’s always good to have a bit of a buzz about the town.”

But Ms Heggie, who runs a gift shop, pointed out some businesses were less likely to benefit than others. “Cafes, for instance,” she said. “A lot of the ships are all-inclusive so people are not really looking for food or sitting, having a long meal.

“Some people have this misconception that the ships bring a massive boom to trade in Queensferry.

“For most businesses I don’t think that’s really accurate. It’s a positive, but not necessarily something we would rely on.”

The council has been consulting about revamping the town’s congested High Street, with three options on the table – pedestrianisation; a one-way system; or restrictions on larger vehicles like goods lorries and coaches.

Ms Heggie said the business association was not taking a position on which was the best option. But she said: “The majority of businesses would not be in favour of pedestrianising the High Street – there is a general concern about access and how that would impact.”

John Murphy, one of a group of residents in the High Street area who got together to respond to the consultation, said they were not backing one particular option either but wanted a “pedestrian-friendly” high street and had set out their priorities to the council.

Among these are weight limits on vehicles using High Street, including a ban on tourist buses, and provision of peripheral parking for day visitors and shuttle buses to Dalmeny rail station.

Mr Murphy said: “Parking has worsened with coaches queuing at the Hawes Pier to pick up the growing number of passengers disembarking from cruise ships.

“The main car park is largely shut down to cope with all the coaches. We would like to see proper provision for dealing with passengers off the cruise ships. They should develop proper parking facilities rather than taking over the public car park.

“There has been no development of infrastructure for the cruise ships, not even toilets.

“We welcome the cruise ship visitors, it’s just a question of making sure we have proper facilities for them – and arrangements that are convenient for them and not disruptive for us.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, whose Edinburgh Western constituency includes South Queensferry, said the council needed to work with the local community to find ways of coping with the movement of coaches and passengers “sensibly and with minimum disruption”.

He said: “The old high street was not built for the large volume of traffic, buses in particular.”

And he said the city council raised around £270,000 a year from cruise liner visits, some of which should be used to improve facilities.

“The city receives a huge cash bonanza in terms of docking fees from cruise ships. It’s vital that Queensferry residents get to see the benefit from that.”

A council spokeswoman said: “South Queensferry welcomes buses and visitors for cruise liners and to accommodate them, areas of parking around the Hawes Pier at the seafront are closed off on specific days.

“Free parking is still available at the west end of the promenade, on Hawes Brae, the Binks car park and the Forth Road Bridge car park. On-street pay parking is also available in the town centre.

“It can get busy at peak times, and we will continue to work with members of the local community and representatives from the cruise ships to review the current parking arrangements, and consider what work can be done as part of the planned improvements to Queensferry High Street.”

She added that a report on public toilets in the area would be presented to November’s meeting of the North West Locality Committee.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com