Minister repeats Troon will only be used in bad weather

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Islands minister Paul Wheelhouse has again reiterated that there are no plans for the Arran ferry to move to Troon for any length of time during the improvement works at Ardrossan habour.

As the Banner revealed last month, these works at due to start next year and will take two years. But at the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee of the Scottish parliament Mr Wheelhouse repeated that Troon would only be used as an alternative in poor weather conditions.

The minister had been asked again about the use of Troon by Central Scotland Conservative MSP Graham Simpson who said: ‘You are familiar with the issues there (at Ardrossan), minister, particularly in bad weather. Have you considered alternatives to Ardrossan, such as Troon, which may be a better port to use?  Have you looked at other options?

Mr Wheelhouse replied: ‘It has been suggested, including by your colleague, John Scott, that Troon would be an alternative to Ardrossan. In his capacity, championing his local area, I am not surprised that he has done that.

‘We have made a commitment to the communities on Arran and in North Ayrshire that we will stick with Ardrossan. The taskforce that is considering the infrastructure requirements at Ardrossan is well developed. Things are taking longer than anyone would like. The harbour is not owned by the Scottish ministers — it is owned by Peel Ports, and North Ayrshire Council has a key role. We have made a commitment through the taskforce to use Ardrossan for the long term.

‘There may be a role for Troon during the construction period, as we have been exploring during the development of the plans for Ardrossan. For those who are not familiar with Ardrossan, there are two berths there; the Arran berth and the Irish berth. The Irish berth is not set up for the prevailing wind conditions that occur at Ardrossan. As I have said, Ardrossan is a difficult harbour on its approach at the best of times – and that is with the Arran berth, which is set up for the prevailing wind conditions.

‘During the construction period, when a pretty invasive exercise will be going on in the Arran berth, moving a lot of earth to create a more open and accessible harbour, the Irish berth will be relied upon. That may not be a fully reliable solution if the weather conditions work against it. Troon would be the obvious place to establish as an alternate during bad weather, and we have had discussions with Associated British Ports, the operator of Troon, to do that.

‘It will involve considerable effort to ensure that Troon is an accessible option for passengers arriving by foot to use the ferry at Ardrossan, so that they have access to the ferry at Troon if required during bad weather. However, we are not planning to use Troon in the longer term as the main port to access Arran. It may have a role in future as a refuge port, and that is something that we will discuss with the operator.’

Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson said: ‘I am delighted that the islands minister again made the Scottish Government’s position clear. We have made a commitment to the communities on Arran and in North Ayrshire that we will stick with Ardrossan.’

‘Ayr constituency, which includes Troon, has a Tory majority of 750; Cunninghame North a majority of 8,724 for the SNP, so that could be the motivation of Tory suggestions that Ardrossan is abandoned in favour of Troon. They have given up on this constituency and will focus instead on attempting to retain Ayr at next May’s Scottish Parliament election, even if moving the ferry means a longer, more expensive and less frequent service to Brodick and job losses in Ardrossan.’