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Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell is seeking urgent action and an immediate solution to the issues with the CalMac Rothesay to Wemyss Bay service which also makes use of Gourock as a port of refuge.
When bad weather prevents the ferry from docking at Wemyss Bay the restrictions imposed on the Gourock linkspan by its owner CMAL, in place since August, means that there is no other port for vehicle traffic to disembark.
The situation has become particularly serious during the recent period of bad weather, causing disruption to hospital appointments, including regular kidney dialysis, commuting and normal commerce.
Alternative arrangements for traffic via the A83 – along the Rest and Be Thankful, the ferry to Dunoon and the crossing at Colintraive – are lengthy and difficult, requiring an extra two to three hours of travel depending on the route taken.
Commenting Michael Russell MSP said: ‘I am deeply concerned that the effect of the broken Gourock linkspan on the port of refuge arrangements for Bute and Arran, about which I warned in the autumn of last year, are now causing real, recurring problems for the population of both islands and particularly Bute.
‘There has still been no adequate explanation of why such a serious problem with the linkspan occurred, no one has taken responsibility for the situation and now the population of the island feels that there is no explanation being given of what is being done to put it right and within what timetable.
‘The issue also affects the service to Arran and vehicles were left there recently because the normal port of refuge arrangements could not operate. It is essential that urgent action is taken to remedy this situation without any further delay and that is the message I have given very clearly to the Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP.’
Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson also posed a number of questions to the Minister asking when the linkspan will be repaired or replaced, and when the government will produce a long-term infrastructure and vessel replacement plan.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP said: Over the past few months, CMAL, our agency, has carried out a series of repairs and maintenance to the linkspan at Gourock to maintain operations. A review is currently being undertaken by a consultant engineer on behalf of CMAL to identify the feasibility of returning the linkspan to accept vehicle loading capacity. We expect to receive the consultant engineer’s report later this month, which I appreciate is not immediate, but it is relatively soon. We will take appropriate action thereafter, at which point Transport Scotland, in conjunction with CMAL, will consider the options.’
He added: ‘CMAL is in discussion with Transport Scotland about finalising a masterplan to enable the redevelopment of the Gourock ferry terminal as a whole to provide updated facilities for the Gourock to Dunoon passenger service and to continue its role as a port of refuge for services from Bute and Arran.’