Campbeltown summer ferry permanent from next year
The Calmac summer ferry service between Ardrossan and Campbeltown is to be made permanent, it has been announced.
A pilot service, linking North Ayrshire and the Kintyre peninsula, has operated for the past three years.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay said it had proved "incredibly popular" and transported an average of over 10,000 passengers and 2,000 cars per year.
He said the permanent service would be part of an enhanced summer timetable for CalMac next year.
"The pilot service proved incredibly popular and I'm sure this announcement will be welcomed by passengers and the communities at either side of the route," Mr Mackay said.
"This will be a real boost for the local economy, enhancing transport links to Campbeltown and the Kintyre peninsula, as well as supporting the tourist trade by making it easier and more attractive for visitors.
Analysis by BBC Scotland's Jamie McIvor
News that the ferry link between Campbeltown and Ardrossan is to become permanent will be warmly welcomed in Kintyre.
There had been genuine local anxiety it would come to an end after the three-year pilot. The failure of a service designed to link Campbeltown with Ballycastle is still fresh in the memory. Reassurances CalMac genuinely wanted the service to succeed sometimes met with a degree of scepticism.
Local businesses which rely on tourism argued the service made a difference and brought extra visitors to the area. But they also believe its full potential is still to be realised.
Some customers, they say, were unaware the ferry service was operating and still took the lengthy road journey.
Significant changes to the service are unlikely in the short term. It uses a vessel which is principally used to provide a greatly enhanced service to Arran over the summer months and, of course, the road link will always be Kintyre's main link with the Central Belt.
However a permanent ferry link has the potential to boost the area's tourist industry and make the area seem less isolated.
The challenge, of course, is for tourist businesses and others to highlight the fact that a sea crossing can now be made in the summer to an area which calls itself "Scotland's mainland island".
Beginning in May over the past three summers, the service provided three sailings in each direction each week.
The sailings provided an alternative to the four-hour drive between Campbeltown and Glasgow and was the first regular car ferry service between Kintyre and Ayrshire.
Until the 1930s, sea travel was the main way of reaching Kintyre from the central belt.
The decision to make the route permanent was taken after Transport Scotland hired consultants to carry out a full evaluation.
CalMac's operations director, Drew Collier, said: "Passenger numbers on this route during the trial confirm that the demand is there for a regular ferry link and we look forward to delivering this service next year in support of the local community in Campbeltown."