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THE Scottish Government has promised there will be no change to fares or timetables when state-owned operator CalMac Ferries Ltd takes on responsibility for the Kilcreggan-Gourock ferry service next month.

After years of campaigning, the route will finally become part of the government-supported Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network from Monday, June 1, when oversight of the service will pass from the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to Transport Scotland

But regular passengers are unlikely to notice any significant day-to-day changes to the service – which is currently operating to a significantly reduced timetable due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The area's constituency MSP, Jackie Baillie, revealed in February that CalMac would take over the operation of the route from the beginning of June, after years of campaigning by residents of the Rosneath peninsula.

The final hurdle to the transfer of responsibility for the route to Transport Scotland was cleared in January when SPT's operations committee agreed the terms of the handover – which include a 16 per cent increase in the subsidy given to the operator to provide the service.

READ MORE: Deal is sealed for transfer of Kilcreggan ferry to Transport Scotland as SPT gives green light

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scotland's minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, said on Friday: “I know from engagement with local representatives and stakeholders that the community very much relies on this ferry for access to healthcare, tertiary education and employment opportunities, including for staff working at Faslane and Coulport.

“Given its importance, I am therefore pleased to secure its future by bringing it into the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network.

“The same timetable and fare structure will apply and we have reached an agreement to continue to operate the service using the existing vessel which will be leased from Clyde Marine Services.

"I am particularly grateful to Hamish Munro of Clyde Marine Services [CMS] and management at SPT for working constructively with us in reaching an agreement on the future for the service.

“This transfer underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to our vital ferry services and the people that rely on them.

READ MORE: Long-awaited Kilcreggan ferry transfer 'to happen in 2020', SPT report reveals

"I look forward to seeing the ferry service operating under CalMac for years to come.”

Transport Scotland says the same timetable and fares will apply as at present, "at least initially", though the agency also says that service levels and ferry fares policy are being reviewed across all routes in the CHFS network.

SPT Zone Cards will remain valid on the service, while CalMac will lease MV Chieftain, the existing regular vessel on the route, from Clyde Marine Services.

The handover in three weeks' time will represent a successful end to years of campaigning by politicians, Kilcreggan residents and regular ferry users for the Scottish Government to take over responsibility for the route.

Those calls reached a peak during the unhappy tenure of Clydelink as operator of the route from 2012 onwards.

READ MORE: Kilcreggan ferry service 'like a nautical Fawlty Towers', says MSP

The Clydelink deal was renewed in 2017, but the company was stripped of the contract 12 months later amid mounting concern at its poor performance, following several lengthy suspensions to the service lasting up to two weeks at a time.

CMS – which had operated the route for many years prior to Clydelink's arrival in 2012 – returned as the operator in May 2018,

Reacting to this week's news, West of Scotland Conservative MSP Maurice Corry said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear confirmation finally that Transport Scotland will assume responsibility for the Kilcreggan to Gourock route with CalMac operating the service.

"The community deserve this change, they rely on this vital service and have campaigned tirelessly over the years to secure and improve its future.

"Once things return to normal, I look forward to using the service to enjoy the great offerings either side of the Clyde.”

READ MORE: Kilcreggan ferry operator stripped of contract after months of anger over service failures

The CalMac passenger-only catamaran MV Ali Cat called at Kilcreggan pier on Thursday to conduct berthing trials.

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The temporary timetable currently being provided on the route due to the pandemic is as follows.

Monday to Thursday:

Depart Gourock: 0641, 0727 and 1618

Depart Kilcreggan: 0704, 0750 and 1702

Friday only:

Depart Gourock: 0641, 0727 and 1256

Depart Kilcreggan: 0704, 0750 and 1319

(No Saturday service)

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