Comhairle Frustration At Further Disruption To Ferry Services

Following the announcement by CalMac Ferries Ltd that the MV Clansman is to return to dry-dock for repairs to its propulsion system for a 12 day period during the first half of June, the Comhairle has expressed anger and frustration over the implications for the travelling public, local and visiting, at one of the busiest times of the year.

Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said this afternoon, "We were contacted this morning by senior management from CalMac to confirm the scheduling of the dry-docking of the Clansman and what temporary arrangements are being put in place while she is out of use.

CalMac has decided to allocate the MV Lord of the Isles on the routes serving Coll, Tiree and Colonsay during this period with the effect that she will not be available to provide a service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale.  The alternatives for passengers wishing to travel to South Uist is to use the Oban Castlebay and Sound of Barra crossings or the Uig Lochmaddy crossing.  This will undoubtedly be inconvenient for everyone planning travel to and from our islands, and I daresay will not only lead to a number of cancellations, which the tourism sector can ill-afford, and a loss of confidence in these services going forward.  This could in turn result in visitors choosing alternative holiday destinations in the future.

This is particularly frustrating for those involved in the tourism sector which has seen real and sustainable growth over the last several years.  The Comhairle has played an important role in this and we are disappointed that all the efforts by the businesses and their representative bodies have been undermined by recent events”.

We appreciate the advance notice given and the improvement in communications undertaken by CalMac and we recognise the situation the operator faces in having to operate the services within the constraints of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service Contract and a limited and ageing fleet.  We would however suggest that these alternative arrangements in terms of routes and timetables are no substitute whatsoever for the availability of additional tonnage or vessels which could be utilised in events such as that associated with the Clansman.

We very much continue to look to Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to ensure that the additional capacity is provided as quickly as possible.  Not only would this provide cover in the event of unforeseen situations such as that affecting the wider network, but would go a long way to addressing the needs arising from the obvious increase in demands particularly during peak periods in the year.”