1. Ardrossan Redevelopment
As agreed previously, the committee convened to consider the implications of the Transport Scotland report, published in August. Despite a request to the Director of Growth and Investment at North Ayrshire Council, no further update had been provided and it was now considered urgent to press for answers to increasing concerns with the imminent onset of winter and recent service disruption.
While the promised community engagement had not taken place due to Covid, it was felt that opportunities for online consultation were being missed. No designs had been published for community consideration.
Clarification was needed regarding funding, since it was not clear what actual commitments had been made by whom. An independent project review had warned of a lack of adequate project oversight, with no one body taking responsibility.
Timescales were clearly slipping, with no tenders, no contractors appointed and no hope of starting any time soon, for a project initiated in 2018.
It was understood that the original plan to upgrade Ardrossan predated the decision to build the Glen Sannox, which then necessitated alterations to the scope of the project. However, delays made it likely that the port will not be ready to accommodate the new vessel for up to a year after this goes into service.
Proposed works at Troon will enable the Glen Sannox to use that port, but there is currently no date for commencement. This raised serious questions about the procedure for deployment of the new vessel prior to both ports being made compatible.
Robbie Drummond had stated to us a year ago that CalMac considered Ardrossan would be unusable throughout the works at the port, yet Scottish government representatives continued to assert that the Irish berth would remain usable. Quite apart from safety considerations, this would be entirely weather-dependent, as recent disruption had proved while the Winton pier was out of action. The committee felt it was ludicrous even to contemplate the use of two different ports on an ad hoc basis, with passengers and crew never knowing whether they would be sailing to Ardrossan or Troon.
With regard to the proposed new terminal, there remained concern that a duplicate of Brodick's building had not been ruled out, despite the case against such a design having been made repeatedly.
There were timetabling implications in the predicted longer times for berthing and loading at the Irish berth and the longer sailings to Troon, yet no revised schedules had been seen. Contingency plans were urgently needed to facilitate onward connections to and from Troon.
It was clear there was no alternative plan in place to deal with anticipated winter disruption, as demonstrated by the frequent disruption over the last three months.
While the reinstatement of Gourock was most welcome, it was necessary to obtain a commitment from CalMac to make use of this port of refuge when both Ardrossan and Troon could not be used.
It was felt that island residents and businesses have both the need and the right to clear information setting out precisely how our lifeline ferry service will be maintained throughout the planned works and beyond. To this end, a comprehensive set of questions, prepared by Sam, would be addressed to the Ardrossan Task Force.
2. Local Communication
Closely related to the Ardrossan redevelopment, but not restricted to those considerations, the committee considered it time to present a clear picture of the local ferry service to islanders, in the form of frequently asked questions and the clearest answers available, based on recent correspondence with relevant bodies. Gavin would assemble this information and prepare an article for publication in the Arran Banner.
The current state of our lifeline ferry service shows it is not fit for purpose in terms of reliability, resilience and infrastructure. The Arran Ferry Action Group is a new and fully representative lobbying group, set up to represent Arran interests in demanding service improvements and accountability in future investment decisions.