AN AYRSHIRE MSP has hit out at the latest setback to Cumbrae's lifeline ferry service - and has pleaded for an emergency plan to solve the problems affecting the route.

MV Loch Shira was withdrawn from service last week for repairs to its vehicle ramps.

And it's expected that the ferry will be out of action for more than two months.

The vessel was taken out of service on Friday, April 5, with CalMac later confirming the damage was caused by the large number of commercial vehicles using the ferry.

It was originally thought the ferry wouldn't be back in operation until late May. But CalMac later said they weren't expecting the ferry to return to service until mid-June at the earliest.

The ferry operator has told the Cumbrae Ferry Users Group (CFUG) that specialist parts have been ordered from Poland to replace those which were found to be "beyond repair".

Those parts require time to manufacture, transport and install - and by the time that's completed, the vessel is likely to have been out of service for more than two months.

Following a public meeting on the issue in Millport on April 9, CFUG described the breakdown on MV Loch Shira, which  as "catastrophic".

Katy Clark, a Labour MSP for the West Scotland region, said: “This latest breakdown is another appalling reminder of the Scottish Government’s failure to adequately replenish our ageing fleet.

“Transport Scotland assume an operating life of 30 years for vessels on the CalMac network.

"Yet Cumbrae residents and visitors are now entirely reliant on the smaller 38-year-old MV Loch Riddon and, until Friday, the 48-year-old MV Isle of Cumbrae, causing huge delays due to vehicle capacity issues.

“This isn’t a sustainable way to run a ferry network. As it stands, construction won’t be underway for a replacement vessel for the route until 2026, a full 10 years after first promised by the Scottish Government.

“An emergency plan is needed to accelerate this process and ensure investment and resilience planning is in place to run the lifeline service our island communities deserve.”

MV Loch Shira was built by Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow and entered service in 2007.

Transport Scotland have been contacted for comment.