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The independent CalMac Community Board is calling on Scottish ministers to accelerate the process for a fleet and port investment programme for Scotland’s west coast and islands ferries network.
At a meeting in April 2019 with the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, members expressed concern at the lack of transparency for a long-term plan to address an ageing fleet of vessels operating on Clyde and Hebrides services causing increasing disruption to customers and businesses across remote, rural and island communities.
The Community Board said that, while the Scottish Government’s intervention in acquiring Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd is to be welcomed, it had learned that delivery of vessels 801/802 is delayed further to late 2021 and mid 2022 respectively.
The board added that, as the ‘major and minor’ fleet ages, service failures are becoming increasingly frequent and on numerous occasions replacement vessels are often not available to provide alternative services.
Board members are being asked by their communities if there is a commitment from ministers for significant funding to be made available to rectify these issues.
At a Community Board meeting in November, members were briefed by Kevin Hobbs, CEO of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), who provided an overview of the current fleet and outlined a comprehensive vessel procurement plan.
Members supported the proposals for a programme of investment from the Scottish Government going forward. An updated assessment of growth in traffic, increased demand, including tourism, and a strategy for ferry services for 30 years and beyond, must accompany future budgetary provision for vessels and ports.
The board called on Scottish ministers to commit to publishing a fully supported cross-party ferries plan as soon as practical in 2020.
Recognition by ministers that urgent action is required will go a significant way to reassure remote and rural communities across Scotland’s west coast and islands that their concerns will be addressed, despite the significant disappointment of the delays to the introduction of the two vessels currently under construction.
Community Board members, led by chairman Angus Campbell, are encouraging ministers to support CalMac, CMAL and Transport Scotland in their joint task in reversing the decline of the current Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service network and implement a strategy to increase economic prosperity and population growth in vulnerable island and rural communities.
The board said it supports this critical agenda going forward and looks forward to ministers taking decisive action in addressing these increasingly serious issues.