Canal cruise firm set to quit Falkirk over soaring charges

Flashback to 2013, when Capercaillie Cruisers Ltd won the Falkirk Herald's Tourism Business of the Year award.

Flashback to 2013, when Capercaillie Cruisers Ltd won the Falkirk Herald's Tourism Business of the Year award.

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A former winner of the Falkirk Herald’s Tourism Business of the Year Award is set to pull the plug on its hugely-popular Scottish canals venture.

Falkirk-based Capercaillie Cruisers Ltd says the level of charges Scottish Canals aims to levy fron his firm next year would see the firm running at a loss.

Capercaillie boss Tim Ford with colleagues Gail Jones and Ron Rusack, preparing for the Falkirk Herald award four years ago.

Capercaillie boss Tim Ford with colleagues Gail Jones and Ron Rusack, preparing for the Falkirk Herald award four years ago.

Managing director Tim Ford has told the canals community that leaves little option but to abandon cruises on the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals and head south to do business in England and Wales.

He said: “The team are devastated, after all that has been achieved here.

“We’ve increased out fleet from 16 to 21 boats, and interest is continuing to grow, but the charges Scottish Canals have proposed for 2018 can’t be sustained – we cannot operate under these terms.”

He stresses that this season will not be affected, and that everything advertised on the company’s website is valid, as the company’s dramatic exit from the Central Belt’s booming canal business would take effect from next year.

The amount of extra money involved has not been revealed, as it’s said to be commercially sensitive, but is said to be unrealistically much higher than the present charges.

The shock increase led Capercaillie to spread the word among regular canal users that the firm can’t, under these terms, afford to run boats which have become a regular feature of the summer tourism season.

Mr Ford has spoken frankly of his anguish at the prospect of leaving an increasingly popular Scottish canals nexus which has become a central feature of visitor tourism to Falkirk and Linlithgow.

Growing success was acknowledged four years ago when the firm won the Falkirk Herald’s tourism award, and since then the Capercaillie brand name has been seen as a main player in the Falkirk area’s summertime leisure offer.

Its canal boat holiday packages are launched from a prime site base at the foot of the Falkirk Wheel, and its craft are conspicuous on routes stretching east towards Edinburgh and west towards Glasgow.

Canal holidays are well-established down south, where they’ve become seen as a relaxing but fun way of escaping busy urban life for a tranquil journey along scenic waterways, but in Scotland the potential of the Forth and Clyde and Union canals has only come to the fore in recent years.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Canals said today: “We are in discussions with Capercaillie Cruisers Ltd, and it would be premature to make any further comment”.