THE owner of a prominent business on Arran has voiced his fears that the negative publicity surrounding the performance of the west coast ferry service will create the impression that the island is closed for business.

Alastair Dobson, owner of Taste of Arran and Arran Dairies, fears the message is being conveyed that “Arran is broken, and you can’t get to it”.

The businessman, whose food manufacturing, sales and distribution company depends on the ferry service every day, said: “The tourism figures are good. People like coming to Arran. It is open for business.”

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Business owners told The Herald in June that a combination of ageing vessels and the re-alignment of Brodick Harbour, which some observers say makes it more susceptible to easterly winds, has made the ferry service connecting Arran with Ardrossan in Ayrshire “woefully unreliable”.

Arran is served by two ageing ferries, the Caledonian Isles and the Isle of Arran, one of which will be replaced by the Glen Sannox, one of two vessels currently being built at the Ferguson Marine yard in Port Glasgow.

But with Ferguson now in administration, and set to be nationalised by the Scottish Government, the delivery date for the Glen Sannox could be delayed further still. Ministers are expected to announce a new schedule for the vessels’ delivery in October.

Mr Dobson, who employs 15 people, says the ferry service to Arran has suffered from under-investment by successive governments. But he described the ferry dilemma currently facing Arran as a “positive challenge, rather than a negative one”, adding: “That would be my take.”

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While Mr Dobson emphasised the positive outlook for Arran, other groups on the island remain frustrated over aspects of the ferry system.

Sally Campbell of the Arran Ferry Action Group said islanders remain fearful of cancellations in high winds, which make it difficult for ferries to dock in Brodick, and the age of the fleet.

And there continues to be frustration over the passenger access system, introduced as part of the £31.2m harbour transformation project at Brodick. There is a view that the new terminal building is difficult to use for travellers with heavy luggage, prams and disabilities because of the high number of stairs and over-crowding on the lifts, and fears people will miss the connecting bus because of the longer distance between the two points.

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Ms Campbell said: “What matters most to people is that the ferry sails. Currently, an average of 10 per cent of all sailings are cancelled annually, with a peak of 20% during August of September last year, and this has been devastating for Arran businesses, residents and visitors. Because the ferry is now so much more fully booked, if they cancel one you’re in dead trouble because you can’t get on the next. There are those issues. That’s ongoing and a lot of people are very frustrated by all that.”

Ms Campbell said people on Arran remain in the dark over when the Glen Sannox will be completed.

“There is a feeling around that at any moment there could be more problems with the boat, because both the Caley Isles and the Isle of Arran are ancient by standards normally pertaining to ferry service boats,” she said.

The vessel was originally expected to have come into service this summer, but the project is well behind schedule. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We expect to have a revised time and cost to deliver the vessels by the end of the October.”