THE people of Arran were last week given the opportunity to hear the overwhelming case for retaining the historic Ardrossan-Brodick ferry route.

At a packed public meeting in Brodick Hall, around 150 islanders heard why the current crossing, which has existed for 180 years, is the shortest, fastest and cheapest route for Arran residents.

The meeting was arranged as part of the ‘Keep it A to B’ campaign spearheaded by North Ayrshire Council to save the Ardrossan to Brodick ferry route, following the speculative bid by Troon port owners ABP to move the ferry to their port.

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane and Doug Coleman of Ardrossan Harbour owners Peel Ports explained to the islanders how wide-ranging and ambitious proposals to improve the Ardrossan terminal and surrounding area will ultimately provide the people of Arran with an unparalleled service.

Allied to these improvements, the arrival of a more modern, more powerful ferry in 2018 would help reduce the potential for weather-related cancellations, allaying fears over the reliability of the service.

Mr Coleman, who is Peel Ports’ project director for the redevelopment of Ardrossan harbour, told the audience: “A lot has been said about the resilience of Ardrossan as a mainland port in comparison to Troon and I’m at a loss to understand how the weather patterns that affect Ardrossan would not affect Troon.

“I have spoken to our marine team and they are very clearly of the view that the same weather patterns which affect Ardrossan would also affect Troon.”

Mr Coleman added: “The new vessel has a number of significant attributes that have been incorporated into the design in recognition of its home port, which at the time of the design specification, was Ardrossan.

“The new vessel has over 2,000 kilowatts of bow and stern thruster capacity in recognition of the weather patterns and the challenge, from time to time, with high winds at Ardrossan.

“That is an increase of over 300 per cent on the operating capability of the existing ferry, allowing the bow thrusters to take control of the vessel and safely berth it.”

Those attending also heard from local Councillor John Bruce, MP Patricia Gibson and MSP Kenneth Gibson who made clear their backing for the current route.

Support for retaining the Ardrossan-Brodick crossing was also evident among the Arran residents who turned out at the event.

Alasdair Dobson, of Taste of Arran and Arran Dairies, who is also a member of Arran Economic Group, said moving the route to Troon would see costs escalate for Arran businesses, who would also suffer from a fall in the number of tourists due to the potential decrease in the number of daily sailings.

He added: “The lives of everyone on this island are positively affected by tourists. If the ferry takes longer to get here and there are fewer sailings, then costs will go up.

“Every single bit of food stuff that comes on to this island could rise by as much as 30 per cent, as it will on the way out.

“Do we want to restrict the number of people who come here to Arran or restrict the number of services?

“The big question here is, are people prepared to pay more and get less?”

Following the meeting, Council Leader Joe Cullinane said: “It was a very well attended meeting and I think the vast majority of people were in favour of the ferry remaining on the Ardrossan-Brodick route.

“They see the advantages of the fastest, shortest, cheapest route and the benefits of having an integrated transport system at Ardrossan harbour, with its direct rail and road links. All of that came across at the meeting.

“I’d like to thank the people of Arran for turning out and for expressing their views which we will take on board. I hope that the support displayed tonight for the Ardrossan-Brodick route is maintained over the coming weeks and months and the voice of the people is heard when the Transport Minister makes his decision.”