Islanders have said their community is “open for business” despite ongoing ferry problems which have seen their regular vessel withdrawn from service.  

People living on the island of Cumbrae, in the Firth of Clyde, are calling on visitors to go ahead with trips despite the sidelining of the ferry which serves their community. 

The MV Loch Shira, which has been replaced by two smaller vessels, serves the popular Largs-to-Millport route but will be out of action just as crowds of daytrippers start to arrive.  

It suffered a “catastrophic” failure of both its vehicle ramps despite assurances the ship would last 12 months after a refurbishment in January, and will not return to action until June. 

The delay in getting it back in service is because the specialist parts needed are only manufactured in Poland, and will take time to construct and ship.  

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A like-for-like replacement ferry was meant to be constructed and in service by now, but has been on the drawing board for a decade, campaigners claimed. 

A public meeting on the island on Tuesday heard more than 130 residents voice their concerns.  

They have called for an independent inquiry into ferry provision for the island, saying that CalMac should not be involved.  

The Herald: The Loch Shira sails for CumbraeThe Loch Shira sails for Cumbrae (Image: NQ)

Islanders say they are “frustrated” with the lack of a “community focus” from ferry services, which they say has led to a larger disruption than necessary to island residents and travellers to and from the island.  

Members of Cumbrae Ferry Users Group encouraged visitors to continue to travel, making the journey as foot passengers if they could becuse of the reduced ability to take cars to the island.  

Angus Campbell, Chair of the Group said: “We know Cumbrae is loved and enjoyed by visitors from far and wide and we want to assure everyone that Millport and the Isle of Cumbrae are very much open for business.  

“The community and businesses on Cumbrae look forward to welcoming visitors for wonderful seaside experiences this summer 2024. 

“We want to encourage people coming to our island for the day to travel as foot passengers on the ferry if at all possible.” 

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He added: “The ferry is a short distance from the train station in Largs, and there is a convenient and quick bus service connecting the ferry with Millport town which will make your travel plans easy. The message is, 'Please come, and if you can, please leave your car behind.’ 

“Our call for people to prioritise public transport supports our work as a Carbon Neutral Island. Additionally, recent issues with the large ferry which serves the island mean capacity for cars is more limited than usual, and it will remain more limited for the weeks leading into the summer. We are pleased to be able to confirm that the full normal summer timetabled service is being delivered by CalMac so the sailings you see on your timetable will take place. 

“We look forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy our island over summer 2024.” 

A CalMac spokesperson said: “MV Loch Shira was removed from service on Friday 5 April due to damage to both ramps and will enter dry dock for repairs as soon as possible. MV Loch Riddon has been operating a single vessel service between Largs and Cumbrae, and we apologise for the extended waiting times experienced by passengers.

“MV Isle of Cumbrae is now supporting as the second vessel on this route until MV Loch Bhrusda takes over this Friday. A timeline for repairs for MV Loch Shira will be confirmed in due course.

“We recognise that changes to vessels serving routes can cause disruption for people and communities and will continue to do all we can to provide a reliable ferry service.”