Argyll MSP says ferry disruption cannot continue

The MV Caledonian Isles loads from the bow at Brodick

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CalMac cancellations and delays ‘cannot be allowed to continue, let alone happen again’, an Argyll MSP has said.

Difficulties being experienced by two vessels in the CalMac fleet which serve Arran have resulted in major disruptions to the services for Islay and Colonsay.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: ‘While everyone is aware of the problems of success that CalMac has been experiencing, including record numbers of passengers and greatly increased sailings, the recent problems have highlighted the absolute necessity of getting more vessels into the fleet and have also indicated potential weaknesses in operations and management that need to be addressed.

‘No one doubts the extraordinary hard work of CalMac staff in trying to overcome current issues but equally no one in the affected community should have to experience, once again, severe problems that are causing considerable personal difficulties for those who rely on lifeline services as well as a threat to key local, late season, tourist events. Such impacts, leading to economic and social damage, are unacceptable.

‘It is good news that there are two new vessels under construction though the delay to these is unfortunate. However, CMAL has, apparently, been scouring the world for several years for a suitable additional vessel as a stop-gap and has failed to find one. Most people who rely on ferry services do not understand that failure and want to see it overcome.

‘CalMac also needs to look again with urgency at its maintenance and refit routines. It has an ageing fleet but passengers need to be assured that maintenance routines are being undertaken with sufficient regularity and that refits are being planned at times that don’t impinge on busy periods.

‘[Arran MSP] Kenny Gibson and I have requested a meeting with the relevant ministers in the Scottish Government, which would include representatives of the local ferry committees on Arran and Islay.

‘We hope to make ministers aware of the huge difficulties caused by this situation and make some concrete suggestions for the future. Whatever happens, these problems cannot be allowed to continue, let alone happen again.’

A CalMac spokesman said: ‘With repairs required to both the MV Isle of Arran and the MV Caledonian Isles, we are in a position where we need to reshuffle our fleet to continue to deliver lifeline service to the communities we support as best we can using the resources we have available.

‘We recognise that these temporary timetable arrangements will impact on a number of communities but be assured that we have explored a wide range of options before making these changes.

‘We consider these arrangements to be the best we can do with the vessels that we have available to us, taking into account passenger demand from both Islay and Arran over this period.

‘We apologise for any inconvenience these temporary timetable arrangements may cause and are grateful for the travelling public’s understanding and patience during what is a challenging time for everyone affected by this disruption.’