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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Ferry route shortlist published
Ballycastle to Campbeltown ferry operated from 1997-99
The service ended in failure in the late 1990s
Four companies are being invited to tender for a ferry service linking Campbeltown with Ballycastle in Northern Ireland.

Harrison's (Clyde) Ltd, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Serco Denholm and Western Ferries have been included on the shortlist.

A 1m annual subsidy over a five-year period is available to the company which wins the contract.

An unsubsidised service for three summers in the 1990s ended in failure.

Scottish Transport Minister Tavish Scott said the route could act as "a catalyst for economic benefit and tourism".

"We believe that a ferry operation can become a catalyst for economic benefit for the Kintyre peninsula and provide new opportunities for trade and tourism," he predicted.

'Encouraging interest'

"There is an encouraging level of interest in the route. We will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland administration and the local business communities involved in making every effort to attract an operator."

Northern Ireland Enterprise Minister Angela Smith said she was confident an operator would be found to restore the link between Argyll and Moyle.

An unsubsidised summer-only service ran between Campbeltown and Ballycastle for three years up to 1999 but then halted because of "unsustainable" losses, and a tendering exercise in 2002 failed to produce a response.

The Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Office later agreed to go out to tender again and provide an annual subsidy of up to 1 million, split 70%-30% between Edinburgh and Belfast for the five years of the contract period.

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