FERRY operator CalMac is set to assume control of the Gourock-Kilcreggan service.

According to reports, the company will take over from Greenock-based firm Clyde Marine 'within weeks'.

The route is currently the responsibility of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) but talks are continuing over the transfer of power to Transport Scotland, which is expected to award a contract to CalMac to operate the service.

The existing 12-month deal with Clyde Marine comes to an end on Saturday.

It was expected that the company would be awarded a long-term contract but it will continue on a temporary basis only until CalMac, which is headquartered in Gourock, takes over.

Clyde Marine successfully steadied the ship after six turbulent years under former operator Clydelink, which saw its deal terminated in May 2018.

Councillor David Wilson, Inverclyde's representative on SPT and chair of the body's operations committee, said: "I've always been in favour of transferring it to Transport Scotland. "We think they are better placed to run ferries and we're currently in negotiations with them.

"The current service is quite excellent and has been well-received by passengers on both sides of the water.

"I'm quite sure that with Transport Scotland/CalMac it will continue to be a good service for people on either side of the water.

"We've always been very concerned to ensure the naval base workers could get to Coulport and Faslane because a considerable number are employed in Inverclyde and as a local councillor that's been my major concern as the area's representative on SPT over the years."

It is expected that the existing crew will transfer to the new operator and the vessel currently in operation, Chieftain, will be chartered.

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."

In January this year, CalMac took control of the Gourock-Dunoon town centres passenger-only route from its offshoot Argyll Ferries.

The company declined to comment on the Kilcreggan ferry takeover.