URGENT calls have been made by councillors to speed up the vital upgrade work at Ardrossan Harbour and improve the “appalling” Arran ferry service.

The North Ayrshire port has been previously backed by the Scottish Government to continue serving Arran but upgrading work has still not started and “technical issues” have marred the route in recent weeks.

Arran Tory councillor Timothy Billings put forward a motion, arguing that the Ardrossan to Arran ferry was continuing to be disrupted by technical issues and with the Caledonian Isles out of service for at least two months – and the drop in passenger and vehicle capacity associated with it – was causing significant harm to island life.

Billings said at Wednesday’s full North Ayrshire Council meeting: “It’s impossible in the time I have to describe the devastation which has been caused to Arran as a consequence of the appalling ferry service that we are experiencing. 

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“The level of service has reached a new low, albeit there has been a temporary transfer to Troon due to the closure of the Ardrossan berth because the Irish berth is unsafe and the fens are being repaired on the Arran berth. The chaos and hardship experienced over the past week is unbelievable and totally unacceptable. 

“I have spoken in this chamber for nearly seven years about the urgency required to address the issues with the Arran ferry ferry service and it has really fallen on deaf fears.

“What Arran is experiencing has been predicted for many years and those in a position to have done something to prevent this crisis should be hanging their heads in shame. The guts have been torn out of Arran.”

Although the delivery of the Glen Sannox ferry was delayed, he said it was “imperative” that the refurbishment work on Ardrossan started without delay to minimise the temporary transfer to Troon.

The National: Glen Sannox

The council called for urgent action taken to ensure effective and efficient use of every possible ferry-related resource so that the Arran service had the maximum capacity possible.

NAC also noted their disappointment that the Scottish Government was allowing the uncertainty about the future of Ardrossan to continue given the importance that keeping Ardrossan Harbour as the mainland port for the Arran ferry service has for both the people of Arran and Ardrossan.

The Council urged the Scottish government to allow the refurbishment work to start without delay.

The council agreed to instruct the Chief Executive to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition to restate the Council’s concerns about the ongoing delay to the refurbishment work at Ardrossan Harbour and to urge her to enable the work to start without delay.

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They would also contact the Scottish Minister for Transport, the Chief Executive of Calmac and the Chief Executive of CMAL to state the council’s concerns about the detrimental impacts on the residents and businesses of Arran caused by the current lack of capacity on the Arran ferry service. 

And they want to ensure that there are effective customer-focused contingency plans in place to enable an efficient switch from Ardrossan to Troon if Ardrossan was not available for service.

An amendment from the SNP Administration by Cabinet Member, Tony Gurney, was added to the motion.

It asked the Chief Executive to write to the Chair and Chief Operating Officer of Peel Ports to express disappointment that the Irish berth had been decommissioned and to ask for the detail of the decision-making process and request an agreement to bring the berth back in as soon as possible.