AN 'ESSENTIAL lifeline timetable' on the Kilcreggan-Gourock ferry service will continue until at least the end of June, operator Caledonian MacBrayne has announced.

Only three return journeys have been provided on the route since March 25, with no weekend service at all, after public transport operators across the country said their services should only be used by key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

That timetable came into force long before the Kilcreggan route was officially handed over to CalMac Ferries Ltd on June 1.

But CalMac – which has operated a severely reduced service across its Clyde and Hebrides routes throughout the lockdown period – confirmed on Wednesday that those network-wide emergency timetables would continue for another four weeks at least.

READ MORE: CalMac to take over vital Kilcreggan ferry service in June

Managing director Robbie Drummond said: "We will continue to take our lead from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, while working closely with the communities we serve.

"When we agree the next phase of our timetable, it will still look very different to our service during normal times while we implement social distancing measures."

Perhaps because of the pandemic, the handover of the route to CalMac took place with minimal fanfare earlier this week, other than a brief announcement on CalMac Ferries' social media channels and the publication of the temporary timetable on the company's website.

The service continues to be operated by MV Chieftain, the regular ferry on the route, after CalMac agreed to lease the vessel from her owners – and the route's previous operators – Clyde Marine Services of Greenock.

READ MORE: Pandemic sparks drastic cuts to Kilcreggan's ferry service

The handover – and the transfer of oversight for the service from the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport to Transport Scotland – came after years of campaigning by disgruntled ferry users.

Local MSP Jackie Baillie said: “After years of campaigning and great uncertainty, I am delighted that the future of the Kilcreggan ferry has finally been secured.

“My thanks go to Hamish Munro and the team at Clyde Marine for keeping the service going since 2018 and to all the local residents who never stopped fighting for what is an essential mode of transport.

“I would also like to thank Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, for the helpful and constructive discussions that we have had over the last year about the ferry. His cooperation has helped achieve the future security of the service.

“Finally, it goes to show that campaigning and determination pay off. When our local community stands together we are irresistible!”

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