A FAILING ferry decimated Caledonian MacBrayne's Gourock-Dunoon services for three days after suffering yet another mechanical breakdown.

MV Argyll Flyer — which only underwent an extensive refit and overhaul only in May — was again rendered inoperable, this time due to a damaged propeller shaft.

It's been confirmed that a total of 68 sailings had to be scrapped on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week as a result of the latest in a series of malfunctions on the vessel.

Campaigners fighting to rid the busy route of lightweight passenger-only boats and restore robust and weather resilient car ferries say the debacle is further proof of 'incompetence' at Transport Scotland.

A fed-up frequent user of the service — who commutes to Greenock for work — said: "Ironically, the refit in May delayed the boat's scheduled return to service, yet we were led to believe that there would be no more technical issues.

"Here we are just three months later and the Flyer has broken down again.

"It's a shambles."

All of the boat's sailings last Monday and Tuesday were wiped out and she completed only four out of a timetabled 24 crossings on Wednesday.

The Telegraph revealed last week how the unreliable vessel and her sister craft MV Ali Cat have racked up more than 4,500 cancelled sailings in the last three-and-a-half years — 678 of those in the first six months of 2019.

A spokesman for the Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action said of the Flyer's breakdown: "This is yet another proof of the incompetence of the ferries department of Transport Scotland.

"That this boat was ever deemed suitable to run on the route when it is designed and engined to travel at 22 knots but is restricted to a maximum of 12 knots in our area of the Clyde means the engines are not running at optimum performance but are throttled back which creates more vibration and will result in more breakdowns.

"Why the department is so devoid of any maritime expertise should be a cause of concern for the government, the remedy for which is to recruit qualified staff and replace the ones responsible for this debacle."

A CalMac spokesman said: "We apologise for any inconvenience this necessary repair has caused the travelling public and have worked to return the Argyll Flyer back into service as quickly as possible.

"She meets all necessary regulations and is approved by the MCA to operate between Gourock and Dunoon.

"In addition, she meets the requirements of the contract with Transport Scotland."

Transport Scotland says it remains committed to delivering a passenger-only ferry service on the route and is now 'considering the long term requirements of the service, including vessel and infrastructure upgrades'.

There was more misery for passengers with further cancellations on Friday, after the entire service was suspended due to the weather.

A replacement bus service was in operation, using Western Ferries, whose services were uninterrupted by the conditions.