Businesses trying to transport goods and animals to and from the Isle of Bute in HGV lorries were left behind when the Rothesay Ferries were disrupted last Friday (12th October) in the aftermath of Storm Callum.
Due to the weather conditions, sailings from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay were diverted to Gourock, the main alternative port for sailings from Rothesay, however CalMac advised that HGVs would not be carried.
To make matters worse, following a prolonged period of heavy rain, a large landslide 330m above the A83 carriageway at the Rest and Be Thankful closed the road. Although the majority of the debris was caught in specially-designed fences, the presence of large boulders prevented the Old Military Road and the A83 from opening due to safety concerns, with a diversion route in place via the A85 at Dalmally.
Peter Wallace said "As we head into the winter months, this downgrade of the linkspan and the potential for lengthy road diversions could result in significant delays and additional costs getting goods and livestock to and from the island during periods of disruption, and will have a detrimental effect on our local economy.
"I have spoken to a Local Haulage contractor who is concerned that the long term weather forecast is for a bad winter, low temperatures and snowfall. Ferries sailing to Gourock is unfortunately becoming more common, this will add considerable cost to the haulage."
A CalMac spokesperson said “We have been advised by the owners of Gourock Port, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), that a weight restriction is being put on the linkspan at Gourock with immediate effect.
“CalMac will therefore be restricting the shipping of vehicles to cars and light goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes. In the event of a diversion the onus will be on the driver to prove the vehicle's weight by producing a V5 document or showing the weight plate on the vehicle.”
A spokesperson from CMAL said “Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has conducted a routine structural condition survey of the linkspan at Gourock ferry terminal. As a result of the condition survey, the axle load limit of the linkspan has been reduced as a safety precaution. These weight restrictions will remain in place until further notice.
“The revised load limit may affect commercial / heavy goods vehicles during periods of service disruption at Rothesay and Arran, when services are normally diverted to Gourock. CalMac Ferries Limited will endeavour to provide hauliers with as much notice as possible if a diversion is likely to allow them to make alternative arrangements.
“CMAL has been reviewing potential replacement options for a number of key aspects of the harbour infrastructure at Gourock ferry terminal, including the linkspan, and high level options for infrastructure upgrade are being discussed with Transport Scotland and CalMac Ferries.”