THE Arran Ferry Committee has backed the case for Ardrossan to retain the Arran and Kintyre ferry routes.

The Chairman of the Arran Ferry Committee (AFC) has written to Scotland’s Transport Minister, arguing that Ardrossan Harbour provides the best option for ”travellers’ convenience, cost effectiveness and future development of the island.”

In the letter sent to Humza Yousaf MSP by Iain Thomson, Chairman of AFC, and supported by senior representatives from the island’s business, tourism and community bodies, Mr Thomson formally declares his support for retaining the Ardrossan link.

Ardrossan is campaigning to maintain the 180-year-old ferry route following an attempt by Associated British Ports (ABP) to shift the service to Troon. Mr. Yousaf is expected to make a decision on the lifeline route’s future in the near future.

The letter states the current Brodick to Ardrossan service, which operates 4700 sailings per year, was only affected by a “weather related failure rate of 3.6 per cent” and highlights that on days where no service at all was provided, CalMac’s entire network was impacted and “therefore the decision not to sail could be related to comfort and safety of passengers rather than the port.”

Mr Thomson also refers to a commitment by harbour operator Peel Ports to invest in a multi-million pound upgrade to infrastructure and the Scottish Government’s pledge to spend £48m on a new vessel to be rolled out in 2018, which is anticipated to “address some of the current restrictions having been designed for the Ardrossan Route.”

He continues that Troon would “require longer journey times at a higher cost which would extend the working day and potentially limit the viability to extend the number of sailings.

“This would impact upon the potential for growth of the tourism industry; it would also lessen the flexibility for residents to attend medical or personal appointments which would not be in the island’s best interests.”

He said that any proposed fare freeze to minimise the cost impact to travellers in the event of a relocation of the service would amount to an annual subsidy of £2.5m for the 30-year duration of the contract to “tackle an unproven bid to address fewer than 5 per cent of failed sailings.”

The figures presented by Troon Harbour operators, ABP, forecasting connection times to Glasgow via public transport are also called into question, with “the shorter turnaround time and the assumed time projections for a link to Troon train station” highlighted.

Speaking about the letter, Mr Thomson said: “The AFC has undertaken extensive consultation with representatives from both port authorities and thoroughly assessed all of the information presented to us.

“Following this process, we are formally registering our support to retain the Ardrossan link as the best option for travellers’ convenience, cost effectiveness and the future development of our island. We hope our position is reflected by the Transport Minister as part of his decision making process.”