Islanders vote on pros and cons for new winter ferry timetable

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Islanders on Mull and Iona have until next week to vote on a new ferry timetable for next winter – or to keep this year’s.

To help people make up their minds, Mull and Iona Ferry Committee has come up with a list of pros and cons for each.

After the deadline of April 12, votes from each island will be counted separately and the new proposed timetable for 2019/20 will only be accepted if it wins majority support from both of the communities individually.

If there is no majority, the 2018/19 winter timetable will stay as it is.

Under the new timetable put forward by CalMac, the pros for people on Mull would include being able to get a full working day on the mainland every weekday and there would be a bigger window of opportunity for people to make appointments and get other travel connections, including the 08.57 train out of Oban Monday to Saturday.

However, disadvantages for both Mull and Iona would be likely 24-hour delays for Royal Mail deliveries and the loss of Saturday’s late boat back to Craignure. For those coming from Iona, cons would mean they could only get a full day in Oban on a Monday and, other than that, would not get to the town on other days before 11am.

To compare both timetables, go to mullandionaferrycommittee.org. As well as being online, the information is also being made available in public places across the islands. The voting deadline is at midnight on April 12.

Mull and Iona Ferry Committee says its long-running campaign to get an improved island-focused  ferry service between Oban and Craignure has now reached ‘a significant juncture’.

Over the past four months, it has increased its lobbying of Transport Scotland and CalMac to produce a timetable for next winter that would make the sailing day longer and give a full eight to nine hours on the mainland every weekday, the same as the 2019 summer service.

Transport Scotland has agreed to extra funds but CalMac’s proposal for the new winter timetable still does not fully match the committee’s hopes for what an island-focused community service could achieve.

Elizabeth Ferguson, who is the chairperson of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, said: ‘After years of campaigning, CalMac has at last offered Mull a possible new winter timetable which could finally give islanders a full day on the mainland 12 months of the year.

‘Unfortunately, the timetable which CalMac has proposed has a number of key shortcomings, including delaying inward post by 24 hours affecting delivery of essential medicines which come by Royal Mail, severely reduced weekend sailings, and a significant degradation of the service for Iona residents.

‘The proposed timetable falls a long way short of what we had hoped, and CalMac would not consider any of our suggested counter offers. On first look, this proposed CalMac timetable may look attractive to some. However, it is really important to read through the pros and cons we have put together before voting, so that people fully understand the implications of this proposed CalMac timetable.’

Discussions with Transport Scotland and islands minister Paul Wheelhouse will still be continuing over the summer to get a better timetable deal for 2020/21.

Votes online via surveymonkey.co.uk/r/J25Y5FG.