Dec 16 2011 by Jennifer Buchanan, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
FERRY giant P&O has pulled its freight service out of Troon.
And now the community fears that the passenger service will be next for the axe.
The freight service, which carried a minimum of 2600 loads, will now operate exclusively out of Cairnryan, 11 miles south of Ballantrae.
This means every single one of the lorry loads will now have to travel along the already packed A77.
But P&O dismissed claims that the passenger service is under threat.
Troon councillor Peter Convery is angered by the company’s decision to pull cargo out of the town.
He said: “The facility at Troon is really first class and personally I’m deeply disappointed at their decision.
“I have no idea what the hauliers must think, but with the added wear and tear to the vehicles, more fuel consumption and no dual carriageway outside their door, it’s a wonder they haven’t complained.
“I think we have to accept this was a purely financial decision on P&O’s part.
“The Scottish Government has recently withdrawn the nationwide freight facilities grant which is worth millions across the country.
“So that may have had an effect on their decision, although I can’t be certain about that.”
The shallow Troon harbour means that there is only one ferry in the P&O freight arsenal that can use the port.
And when that boat was taken in for repairs two weeks ago, the company made the decision to permanently switch their service to Cairnryan.
It’s believed that P&O have been making an annual loss of up to £3 million at the Troon port.
The company however deny rumours that the passenger service, which runs from april to September, is now at risk.
The loss of this service could prove catastrophic, not just to Troon but to tourism in Ayrshire as a whole.
A spokesman for the company said: “The passenger service was reviewed and P&O are maintaining the service.”
Councillor Convery added: “It would be lovely to think they’ll find a way to return, but I think in the short term, we have to accept they won’t be back.
“The drivers used to use the local shops and some would stay in the B&Bs to pick up loads in the morning so all that will be effected.
“And it’s not just limited to Troon.
“Towns and villages such as Ballantrae, Girvan and Maybole will all be affected.”
The P&O spokesman added: “The freight ship Norcape is to be withdrawn from the Troon-Larne service and the business transferred to the higher capacity and higher frequency route to Northern Ireland from Cairnryan.
“The company has spent much of the last year carefully considering ways of developing its business on the Irish Sea and has examined a variety of options for services from Troon but with the constraints of the harbour, and the lack of available ships to replace the ageing shallow draft Norcape, has concluded that freight customers will be better served from Cairnryan.
“The current freight service from Cairnryan to Larne has the capacity to accommodate the additional freight traffic without requiring any additional crossings.”