BY Jane Ann Liston, Secretary, Railfuture Scotland

TODAY we are more aware than ever of the need for well-integrated easy to use public transport to provide an attractive alternative to the private car. It was therefore rather a surprise when the drawings for the proposed upgrade to Ardrossan ferry terminal, support for which was announced by the Scottish Government earlier this month, includes a new “Maritime Hub” passenger arrival point right beside the ferry berth but with the railway station still marooned about 200 metres away. How does that encourage travellers to Arran with the option of a car to use “rail and sail” rather than car straight to boat?

It was not always thus. Until the first half of the 1980s the rail terminus was Ardrossan Winton Pier station, beside the ferry berth and ironically very close to the proposed new hub. However, when the line was electrified it was thought that the overhead wires might interfere with lorries disembarking from a proposed freight service across the Irish Sea.

READ MORE: Island campaigners demand urgent solution to ferry disruption

Rather than working out a passenger-friendly solution, their convenience was considered expedient and so the wires were terminated about 200 metres short of the gangway and Winton Pier station demolished and replaced by a new Ardrossan Harbour station at the new terminus. Ironically, the new freight ferry service never materialised.

However, the new Ardrossan terminal is a perfect opportunity to put this right, by bringing the railway line right down to the new passenger arrival point which after all will be mainly used by foot passengers rather than those in cars, sparing everybody a significant hike, including those not as mobile as they were, those pushing child buggies and of course the luggage-laden holidaymakers heading for Scotland’s holiday island. It might also help stem the RET-fuelled increase of traffic on Arran’s roads which, never designed for such numbers of vehicles, are becoming steadily busier, to the concern of those living on the island.

Despite all the rhetoric supporting more environmentally-friendly transport, everything seems geared to make life for car users as easy as possible at the expense of those who walk, cycle or use public transport.

When the Irish ferries were moved from Stranraer to Cairnryan, a connecting rail service from Glasgow to Stranraer right to the boats for foot passengers was replaced by a 40-odd mile trundle in a coach for more than an hour from Ayr. At Rothesay and Wemyss Bay, passengers have to walk further than before and negotiate stairs, with lifts only for use by disabled people.

READ MORE: Island campaigners demand urgent solution to ferry disruption

The brand new terminal at the other end of the Arran ferry at Brodick has replaced a short gangway to the ferry with stairs and a long walkway the length of the boat, in the process significantly increasing the overall distance between bus and ferry, to the concern of the bus drivers. None of these “improvements” is likely to encourage travellers with the option of using a car to leave it at home. The message is clear: foot passengers are still seen at best as an afterthought, and at worst an irrelevance, an inconvenience and simply not important.

However at Ardrossan there is yet time to begin to reverse this trend before the design is finalised. Transport Scotland should require the railway station to be included in any so-called Maritime Hub, minimising the walking distance for foot passengers between train and boat.

That really would be integrated public transport. In a nod to maritime history they might even call it Winton Pier.