USERS of a heavily criticised passenger-only ferry service which has suffered thousands of cancelled sailings are being asked for their views on proposed improvements.

But calls from campaigners for robust and demonstrably profitable vehicle-carrying ships to be returned to the Gourock-Dunoon route will be thwarted under current plans.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) — the Port Glasgow-based Scottish Government quango in charge of ferries and ports — has launched an online survey to gauge views.

It is understood that Transport Scotland chiefs favour maintaining a passenger-only service.

The government's stated aim is to 'deliver a modern, reliable and resilient lifeline passenger ferry service' despite the previously declared 'wish' of ministers — including Nicola Sturgeon — for car ferries.

The CMAL survey seeks feedback to 'inform the work of the Gourock Harbour Infrastructure and Vessels Project'.

Chief executive Kevin Hobbs said: "The views and experiences of ferry passengers are very important to us during the planning stages of this project.

"We want to hear from as many people as possible.

"We recognise that everyone is experiencing a challenging and uncertain time with the coronavirus pandemic.

"However, we are keen to continue with as much work as we can to support Scotland's ferries and harbours, and this survey can be completed by passengers from the comfort of their homes."

The project will deliver two new vessels for the route to replace the current lightweight and weather-prone MVs Argyll Flyer and Ali Cat, which have branded 'not fit for purpose by previous government ministers.

The Telegraph told last August how the small craft had racked up more than 4,500 cancelled sailings in the previous three-and-half years.

CMAL's project — which is in partnership with Transport Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne and Argyll & Bute Council — also aims to redevelop Gourock Ferry Terminal and have 'minor works' carried out at the Dunoon side of the water.

A £50,000 expert report commissioned by the government in 2013 recommended ships of at least 40 metres in length.

The Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Action Group has argued that vessels of this size must be able to provide a vehicle service in order to make them economically viable and provide a return to the public purse for the cost of building them.

Ken Barr, of the action group, said: "We have repeatedly shown that the carrying of cars would be profitable and reduce any subsidy pertaining to passengers.

"The boats in this current scenario, passenger only, would attract maximum subsidy from the public purse and and be 80 per cent empty."

The CMAL survey is available to complete online at