The plan to reconnect Scotland to Europe from Rosyth this spring has been put on hold after failure to get a cash commitment from government.
Ferry operator DFDS had said it had been keen to get sailing from May this year – but only if public funds were used to get it started.
In an email shared with The Courier, DFDS said the Rosyth-Dunkirk plan needed a green light by mid-January to hit that spring deadline.
“Our desired start date for the service was May 8th, but having reviewed our detailed planning over the course of last week, we have concluded that the date is no longer feasible,” the operator wrote.
“Thus, it is highly unlikely that we will have the proposed Rosyth-Dunkirk ferry service in place for the Summer of 2024, which makes our business case for the route less viable.”
DFDS hopes the Scottish and UK Government will think again, but said that “for now” the projects is on hold.
Ptarmigan Shipping director Derek Sloan, the Scottish businessman behind the project, said he still hopes the government will engage.
“It is a great pity that the momentum has been lost due to the lack of financial support for creating the infrastructure that would have led to a direct route to Europe, for Scottish exporters and importers and for our tourism industry,” he said.
The Courier revealed in October that Mr Sloan’s team’s focus had switched from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Dunkirk in France.
If the Rosyth plan is successful, Scottish holidaymakers could soon disembark there alongside passengers already making use of links from Rosslare in Ireland and Dover in England.
Mr Sloan was a key player in the growth of the Irish links, dubbed “Brexit busters” for their ability to get freight straight to market without passing through the UK.
But earlier this month, the group shot a warning across the government’s bows by saying it would likely fail without a cash injection.
The response from government agency Transport Scotland made clear any new service will have to be delivered “on a commercial basis”.
There used to be a passenger ferry between Rosyth and Zeebrugge but it was shut down in 2010.
Freight on the line was ended in 2018 by carrier DFDS after a fire on board one of its ships.
After an agreement to look again, backers including ferry firm DFDS Seaways, port authorities in France, hauliers such as Dyce Carriers and campaigning politicians all believe passengers could set sail as soon as May.