‘Lifeline’ ferry petition to go before committee

Councillor Donald Kelly.
Councillor Donald Kelly.

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Calls for a ‘lifeline’ ferry link between Campbeltown and Ardrossan will be considered by a Scottish Parliament petitions committee next month.

The petition for a year-round freight and passenger ferry service between the two ports, submitted by South Kintyre councillor Donald Kelly and fellow Argyll First councillor Dougie Philand, will be discussed at a Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee meeting on Wednesday September 1.

The document was submitted in response to the consistent A83 road closures caused by landslips at the Rest and Be Thankful, and the suggested 10-year timescale for a permanent solution, although councillors Kelly and Philand say it should not be considered as an alternative or compromise to a permanent solution to the issues at the Rest.

In a statement, submitted in April, to accompany the petition, Councillors Kelly and Philand wrote: ‘Despite the various mitigation measures which have been put in place over the past 10 years or so, the situation at the Rest and Be Thankful has continued to deteriorate, culminating in approximately 280 days of disruption during 2020-2021.

‘Transport Scotland has recently indicated that there is currently at least more than 100,000 tonnes of unstable material on the hillside which, in the event it is displaced, could potentially seriously impact on the current fragile situation at the Rest and Be
Thankful.

‘Such impact would seriously exacerbate the already challenging and tenuous condition of the main artery to and from Argyll, resulting in further distress and disruption to the local communities and businesses therein.

‘With the current projected unacceptable timescale for a permanent solution to be put in place, the only way to provide an alternative connection to the Scottish mainland for the long-suffering communities of Argyll and Bute is to consider providing a full-time ferry service, capable of taking passengers and freight with road equivalent tariff applied to it, from Campbeltown to the Scottish mainland.

‘We have discussed the possibility of potential vessels with well-known and reputable ferry consultants which have reliably informed us that vessels are currently available outwith the CalMac fleet which could potentially be procured to meet the requirements of providing a lifeline service.’

Councillor Kelly this week told the Courier: ‘We are pleased that our petition is finally coming before the committee. Hopefully they will agree to move it to the next stage and take oral evidence.

‘The seasonal CalMac service has yet again been a disaster and this might be our last chance to get a commitment for a full-time service.

‘The question the government must answer is: If other companies have suitable vessels available, which are capable of providing this service, why are they not procuring them?

‘Everything is relatively quiet at the Rest and Be Thankful at the moment but everyone  is well aware as soon as the winter weather approaches we will be back to ongoing closures and disruption.

‘We need a full-time alternative link and now is the time for the Scottish Government to deliver it.’