FERRY operator Caledonian MacBrayne has declined to comment on rumours that it's set to take over the running of the Kilcreggan ferry.

The area's MSP has welcomed news that Transport Scotland, the government's national transport agency, is actively working with Strathclyde Passenger Transport, which is currently responsible for the route, and present operators Clyde Marine, to take on oversight of the vital service.

But CalMac has insisted that no decision has yet been made on whether the company will take over operation of the ferry link with Gourock.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Gourock-Kilcreggan ferry service is the responsibility of SPT, but we are aware of this route’s importance to the communities that the ferry serves.

“Talks between Transport Scotland and SPT on the future of the ferry service are ongoing, and details on the way forward for the service will be outlined as soon as possible.”

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CalMac Ferries is thought to be favourites for the new contract, but a spokesman for the company told the Advertiser that discussions are ongoing and details have yet to be finalised.

The spokesman added: “We are not in a position to comment at the moment.

“We cannot confirm or deny anything as nothing has been decided yet, but a statement will be made in due course.”

Ms Baillie welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to finding new operators.

She has spearheaded the campaign to secure the long-term future of the service, calling for it to be taken into state control to put it in line with other ferry services across the country.

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She said: “I have maintained an active interest in the Kilcreggan ferry since we all campaigned so hard to secure its future and recently met with the minister responsible for ferries, Paul Wheelhouse, to discuss the service.

“It has now reached the point where Transport Scotland is working with SPT and Clyde Marine to transfer the service and secure its long-term future for our local community.

“I am grateful to Hamish Munro and his crew at Clyde Marine for providing us with such an improved and reliable service and for their ongoing help in the next few months.

“They are true heroes in our local community. And I don’t say this often, but I want to praise SPT, Transport Scotland and the minister in responding so positively to the transfer.

“This is good news for the people in our local community who rely on this lifeline ferry service.”

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The service had been fraught with difficulties under previous contractor Clydelink, who failed to ensure that the service was reliable and sustainable for local people.

The contract to run the service was transferred to Clyde Marine last year in agreement with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT).

That contract is due to end this month, though the terms of the agreement allowed for an extension of up to five years.

Clyde Marine had run the service for many years until losing out to Clydelink’s rival bid in 2012 – and the return of the contract to the Greenock-based firm heralded an immediate and significant improvement in the reliability of the route.

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This week's news comes after a long battle by Ms Baillie and others to have the responsibility for the service transferred from SPT to Transport Scotland, which already oversees services run by CalMac.

The last update on the service to SPT’s operations committee, given in April, said passenger numbers on the route for the year to March 16 were up 4.2 per cent on the previous 12 months.

The four-month period from November 25 to March 16 saw 219 cancelled sailings on the route – all down to bad weather, with the exception of five sailings cancelled because of a technical issue.

During those four months the service boasted a reliability level of 90.75 per cent.