THE Scottish Government immediately reinforced its determination to maintain passenger-only ferry services when quizzed about a broken vehicle ramp at Gourock and the pier's inability to dock larger vessels.

Campaigners are demanding that 'port of refuge' back-up arrangements be restored at the hub when services to destinations such as the islands of Arran and Bute are disrupted as a result of poor weather.

The linkspan at Gourock is now eight years beyond its serviceable 40-year life, can no longer take the weight of vehicles and Transport Scotland have known about significant issues with it since 2017.

But despite national port infrastructure body Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd [CMAL] developing options for a Gourock 'masterplan' since 2016, nothing has been done to improve the facility.

CMAL says it has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on maintenance and repairs to the linkspan in recent years but it remains not fit for its original purpose.

When the Telegraph asked Transport Scotland about the dilapidated vehicle linkspan, the immediate response from officials was: "Scottish Ministers are committed to delivering a passenger-only ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon with improved reliability and resilience and have started a consider the long-term requirements of the service."

A spokesman added: "CMAL is currently undertaking a full review of the linkspan and supporting structures to determine the feasibility of undertaking life extension works, with a view to maintaining its operation status until a more comprehensive masterplan can be agreed and implemented to redevelop the harbour and passenger facilities given the continued role as both a passenger ferry hub and port of refuge."

Gourock has been unable to be used as a port of refuge since November 2018.

With no indication of when the masterplan will be ready, a CMAL spokeswoman said: "Linkspan operation is currently limited to foot passenger loading only.

"A review is being undertaken by a consultant engineer to identify the feasibility of returning the linkspan to accept vehicle loading capacity.

"We expect to receive the consultant engineer report later this month.

"We will then consider the options provided.

"At this stage, it is not possible to pre-judge the outcome of the report, however, it may be that additional or further assessments are required."

The Telegraph told last year how the unreliable passenger-only ferry service operated by CalMac between Gourock and Dunoon racked up 4,500 cancelled sailings in three-and-a-half years — 678 of those in the first six months of 2019.

Campaigners are fighting to rid the route of lightweight boats Argyll Flyer and Ali Cat and restore robust and weather resilient car ferries.

A CalMac spokesman said: "The port of Gourock is owned by CMAL and they have responsibility for the upkeep of the infrastructure.

"We are in discussions with them to try and get the linkspan fully opened up for all traffic again as soon as possible."

Ramsay Muirhead, director of port infrastructure and planning at CMAL, said: "There have been ongoing problems with the linkspan at Gourock and we have carried out a series of repairs and maintenance over the past few months to maintain operations.

"Currently, the linkspan remains closed to vehicles and we will soon review potential options to address this.

"We are aware of the significant inconvenience this causes for ferry passengers.

"At 48 years old, the infrastructure has reached the end of its serviceable life.

"Unfortunately, ageing infrastructure increases the potential for more frequent repairs and maintenance.

"The long-term solution is to fully redevelop the harbour infrastructure.

"We are working with Transport Scotland to finalise a masterplan for Gourock to fully upgrade the harbour."