£2.5m repair plan for 'port of refuge' Gourock ferry terminal

image sourceCMAL
image captionAt the moment the linkspan can only carry foot passengers

A £2.5m investment in a west coast ferry terminal could reduce cancellations on two busy routes.

A project to repair the linkspan at Gourock ferry terminal has been given the go-ahead by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).

Once restored, the linkspan will be able to carry vehicles and reinstate Gourock as an alternative port in bad weather for Bute and Arran ferries.

The terminal has been out of action as a port of refuge since September.

The project, announced on Tuesday, will involve repairs to the linkspan support structures and replacement of the steel deck.

The linkspan is a type of drawbridge that allows for changes in water levels.

Plans to appoint an engineering firm to carry out the work are now under way and CMAL hopes the work will be complete in late 2020.

During winter storms. ferries from Bute sometimes divert to Gourock as it is less exposed than the usual terminal at Wemyss Bay.

The Arran ferry route between Brodick and Ardrossan is also susceptible to severe weather conditions.

On Friday, the crew of MV Caledonian Isles was praised for its skill as dramatic footage showed the vessel struggling to berth in Ardrossan harbour in stormy seas.

media captionFerry users waiting to board watched with trepidation as the ship lurched from side to side

In October last year a combination of technical failures caused major disruption to the Arran ferry service - one of Scotland's busiest routes.

The MV Caledonian Isles, which serves the Brodick/Ardrossan route was diverted to Troon, 10 miles (16km) south of the intended destination due to problems with linkspans at Ardrossan stopping cars being able to board.

Bad weather then made it impossible for the ferry to berth at Troon and to complicate matters, the Gourock terminal's broken linkspan stopped vehicles using the ferry.

Passenger-only services saw cars and travellers stranded in the wrong locations.

In January hundreds of visitors to Arran struggled to make it back to the mainland when bad weather meant the main ferry was unable to berth at Ardrossan.

image captionBig queues build up on Arran in January as services on the main ferry route were cancelled

Ramsay Muirhead from CMAL said: "This is welcome news for ferry users. The age of the linkspan at Gourock has been causing operational issues for several months and we know it has created significant inconvenience.

"Working with a specialist consultant engineering firm, we have identified a solution that will return normal vehicle-carrying capacity. It means Gourock will be available as an alternative mainland port for vehicle services.

"This is a significant investment in life-extending measures to improve the resilience of the linkspan until a new one is built as part of the terminal redevelopment."

CalMac's Director of Operations, Robert Morrison, said: "We welcome CMAL's commitment to investing in Gourock linkspan to enable vehicles to use it again. It will be a welcome development for the communities of Bute and Arran, who rely on it as an alternative mainland port."

CMAL said that further details regarding the work and temporary closure of Gourock's linkspan during the project would be shared as the project progresses.

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