SCOTLAND’S busiest ferry crossing has been rerouted indefinitely after the vehicle gangways failed and the usual fallback option was out of service.

CalMac sailings to and from Ardrossan have been cancelled since Sunday after both gangways, or linkspans failed in what is understood to be a problem with their hydraulics.

The MV Caledonian Isles to and from Brodick on the isle of Arran would ordinarily have been switched to Gourock instead, but the linkspan there has been out of action for the last three weeks.

The Arran service was forced to use Troon as “an emergency port”, even though it lacks passenger and parking facilities, as it is principally a cargo port.

Foot passengers expecting to use Ardrossan were bussed 10 miles to or from Troon as a result.

CalMac last night said it expected the arrangement to be in place until at least the end of Wednesday, but there was no firm timescale for a return to normal.

READ MORE: Ferry giant urged to act to ease island crisis 

However, the ferry operator stressed the issues were outwith its control, as Ardrossan is run by Peel Ports and Gourock by state-owned Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).

Ardrossan-Brodick is CalMac’s busiest route, carrying 841,000 of its 5.25m passengers last year.

The problems coincided with Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announcing more workers were being hired to finish the new Ardrossan-Brodick ferry.

HeraldScotland:

Visiting the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, which is to be taken into public control after its last owner ran out of money, Mr Mackay said 17 new recruits has already started at the yard, with 10 more vacancies being advertised, and 14 apprentices staying on this month.

Ferguson’s is building two dual-fuel CalMac ferries under a £97m order placed in 2015 by CMAL which has been dogged by design changes, delays and a 100 per cent cost overrun.

One of the vessels, MV Glen Sannox, had been due to enter service between Brodick and Ardrossan in 2018, but remains only partially built.

Mr Mackay said: “ Recruiting more staff to Ferguson Marine is a significant step forward in the completion of the CalMac ferries, as well as the best outcome for the yard and its employees.

“While we continue to work with the administrators to bring the yard into public ownership, work on the vessels is progressing, and the staff being recruited will play a key role in this work.

“Establishing a revised timetable for the completion of the ferries remains one of the main tasks for the management at the shipyard, and we will be able to update further on this in coming weeks.

“While there is still more to be done, our actions have ensured that there will be a future for Ferguson Marine.”

GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said: “Public ownership secures the future of the yard and this will be welcomed by our members and their families. While we are clear that there is no quick fix for Ferguson’s and that the real hard work is still in front of us, this is the right thing to do.

“The workers at Port Glasgow are ready to serve the country. Now let’s get on with the business of building the ships that Scotland needs.”

The latest problems at Ardrossan also threw a spotlight on troubles at Gourock.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Multiple port problems force Scotland's busiest ferry off course 

Although CalMac’s Gourock-Dunoon service is foot passengers only, Gourock can act as a “port of refuge” for vehicle services diverted by bad weather.

This is particularly useful in the winter, as Wemyss Bay and Ardrossan are susceptible to disruption by strong winds.

However, the Gourock linkspan has been out of order since mid-September, and replacing and testing its hydraulic cylinder will take several weeks.

Jamie Greene, the Tory MSP for West of the Scotland and his party’s transport spokesman, said: “”Thousands of my constituents in North Ayrshire and Arran, who rely on the Brodick-Ardrossan route as a lifeline service are being consistently let down by these infrastructure failings.

“It’s bad enough that the new CalMac ferry will be at least three years late, ferry users now can’t even cross to Ardrossan or Gourock due to these port issues.

“It’s just one thing after another when it comes to looking after our rural and island communities.

“The SNP Government needs to seriously reflect on their pathetic handling of our ferries and the effect their incompetence has on those who rely on a decent, reliable ferry network.”

A spokesperson for CMAL said: “We took the decision to close the linkspan at Gourock on September 17 due to an ongoing technical issue with one of the hydraulic lifting cylinders, which could have prevented [it] safely lifting the linkspan.

“We have attempted to repair the hydraulic cylinder by changing the seals. However, following ongoing issues and a site visit by an external specialist engineer, it is clear the cylinder is beyond repair and must be removed and replaced. We have sourced a cylinder, however, it needs to be fully tested and certified before it can be installed.

“We expect installation by specialist contractors will take a matter of weeks.

“We are aware of the inconvenience this is causing for ferry passengers, and we are doing all we can to expedite matters. However, health and safety, as well as environmental concerns, mean we must keep the linkspan out of operation until the issue is resolved.”

READ MORE: Ardrossan to Brodick Caledonian Isles ferry diverted to Troon amid major technical failure

HeraldScotland:

A CalMac spokesman added: “With a failure of the linkspan at Ardrossan and the linkspan at the normal port of refuge, Gourock, also out of action, we have had to look at other arrangements to continue to provide a vehicle and passenger service to Brodick.

“We are pressing the owners of Ardrossan, Peel Ports and Gourock, CMAL to get both linkspans repaired and operational again as soon as possible.

“During this disruption, we will be running an alternative service to Troon and providing bus transportation from the harbour to the train station for foot passengers.

“The MV Loch Riddon has also been deployed to the Lochranza crossing to help clear any backlog of traffic.

“Although both of these technical failures are out with CalMac’s control we have tried hard to minimise disruption to passengers as much as possible.”

Peel Ports was asked for comment on the linkspans at Ardrossan.