BELEAGUERED ferry users who have suffered thousands of cancelled services on the Gourock-Dunoon route are to finally be officially consulted on improvements.

The crossing has been plagued with weather-related call-offs since lightweight passenger-only boats Argyll Flyer, pictured, and Ali Cat came into operation in 2011.

Calls have repeatedly been made for a vehicle carrying service to be reintroduced on the route, but to no avail.

Now a new body involving Transport Scotland, Port Glasgow firm Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd [CMAL], Gourock company CalMac and Argyll & Bute Council has been established to 'facilitate engagement' with the travelling public.

The stated aim of the Gourock Harbour Infrastructure and Vessels Project is to 'support the enhancement of services by the replacement of vessels and upgrading of harbour infrastructure'.

It's first meeting was held on Wednesday.

The project covers the redevelopment of Gourock Ferry Terminal, minor works to harbour infrastructure at Dunoon and delivery of new vessels to deliver 'a modern, reliable and resilient lifeline passenger ferry service'.

But there are no plans to reintroduce vehicle-carrying ships to the route.

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive at CMAL, said: "This work will bring much-needed investment to ferry services in the next few years.

"We want to ensure ferry users and the local community are actively engaged from the beginning, during the planning stages, to ensure their voice is part of the design process and delivery of new infrastructure.

"The reference group will meet every four to five months, meaning local community representatives are informed of progress and decisions, and we can ensure their feedback is considered and questions and concerns are addressed."

An online survey will go live in late March on the CMAL website and all ferry users, no matter how often they use services, will be encouraged to complete it.