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By Hugh Boag
Troon harbour will be used as an alternative berth for the Arran ferry service during the £35 million upgrade of Ardrossan harbour, it was confirmed this week.
The recommendation, which will see services resume from Ardrossan once works are completed, was agreed at a meeting of the project’s Ministerial Taskforce on Wednesday.
The Arran ferry will operate from Troon for around 18 months from September 2022 until at least the spring of 2024.
The Taskforce’s decision, which followed a review of all potential options, was guided by the community requests to maximise the reliability of the alternative service for ferry users.
Further work will also be undertaken to look at potential measures to support the community in Ardrossan during the construction works.
The use of Troon harbour for the duration of the works was backed by 79 per cent of respondents to a survey carried out earlier this month by the Arran Ferry Committee.
There had been concern at the number of sailings which may have to have been cancelled while the MV Caledonian Isles was using the Irish berth during the works. The MV Glen Sannox is also due into service in late 2022 and would be unable to use the Irish berth, further prompting the switch to Troon.
Minister for energy, connectivity and the islands Paul Wheelhouse said: ‘This is a significant step forward for the Ardrossan Harbour Project and I’d like to thank the members of the taskforce for their contributions in coming to this decision.
‘We had to take particular account of the potential for significant disruption had services switched to the Irish berth, given this would be more difficult to access in rough conditions than the Arran berth.
‘We know this ferry link is a vital lifeline for the Arran community and critical to the tourism sector on the island, so using Troon harbour on a temporary basis will offer the most resilient option possible during the works. We will also look at potential measures to support the community in Ardrossan during the works.
‘The next stage will be further community engagement on the development of the ferry timetables themselves. This will look at issues like transport integration and connectivity with other modes.
‘The Scottish government is fully committed to providing a robust and resilient ferry service between Ardrossan and Arran and I look forward to, in the near future, finalising proposals for a significant programme of capital investment in the Arran Berth at Ardrossan harbour to provide the improved service that passengers deserve.’
Ferry committee chairman Iain Thomson said: ‘Arran Ferry Committee welcomes the decision which will allow this important project to move forward with clarity. We welcome the investment and will continue to work with other partners to support delivery of theses long awaited upgrades to our lifeline services which will improve the island’s economy and quality of life for the residents.’
Leader of North Ayrshire Council Joe Cullinane said: ‘This decision has been guided by the need to ensure a reliable and consistent ferry service for Arran during the construction works at Ardrossan harbour and has clear support from the islands community.
‘From a North Ayrshire Council perspective, we recognise a temporary shift to Troon during the construction phase will have some impact on local businesses, some jobs and those individuals who commute to the island for employment. We are committed to working with the Scottish Government, its agencies and partners to mitigate any impact during this period.’