A MAJOR update on the fate of Ayr's fire-scarred Station Hotel building has revealed that much more demolition work is required than previously thought.

South Ayrshire Council says the remainder of the tower, and half of the northern section of the building, needs to be taken down on safety grounds.

The damage caused by last September's fire has already forced the demolition of the southern section of the building, which was worst affected by the blaze.

The local authority says the additional works are expected to take a total of nine weeks, which means they should be complete by June 17.

It's hoped that direct trains linking Ayr with Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Girvan and Stranraer could resume once the work is complete.

The council says the decision comes following the conclusion of a number of structural inspections on the tower and northern half of the building.

These inspections have revealed extensive fire damage to supporting structural elements, which means these parts of the building can’t remain without serious risk to public safety.

South Ayrshire Council’s building standards team will now instruct contractors to continue their safety works at the north of the building, extending the use of powers under Section 29 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 to protect the public and surrounding infrastructure.

Ayr Advertiser: The station site

At the track side of the building, the walls will still need to be removed by hand in order to protect the railway.

But at the Smith Street side, machinery will be used to speed up the operation.

Councillor Martin Dowey, leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: “I am pleased we now have a way forward.

"Given the extent of the damage to the northern section, we need to put public safety first. This means that the tower and half of the northern section of the building needs to come down.

“I know that this has been a frustrating time for rail users and the travelling public and it’s always been our priority to work with partners, Network Rail and ScotRail, to get the station operational again as soon as possible.

"Removing most of the brickwork means our safety works will be complete and our partners will be able to make progress around the reopening of the railway station."

Trains to and from Ayr were suspended as soon as the fire broke out in the late afternoon of September 25.

A shuttle train service, using the platform at Ayr which is furthest away from the building, was introduced between Ayr and Prestwick Town on December 4, with passengers having to change at Prestwick for onward connections towards Glasgow.

But trains between Ayr and Kilmarnock, and between Ayr and Stranraer, have not resumed, with a rail replacement bus service provided instead.

Simon Constable, operations director for Network Rail Scotland, said: “As soon as it is safe to do so, our engineers will inspect our infrastructure for any damage caused by the fire and we will re-open the railway as soon as we can for our customers.”

 David Lister, ScotRail's safety and sustainability director, said: “ScotRail welcomes the news that we now have a timeframe for South Ayrshire Council completing the work, and it will bring us a step closer to restoring services for customers.

 “When the buildings are safe, and Network Rail have inspected the railway lines as safe to operate on, we will be able to start the process of reintroducing our trains on the route.

“Until then, we are doing everything we can to help keep customers moving, which includes providing buses for the Scottish Grand National next weekend.”