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West Coast ferry operator CalMac is introducing an essential lifeline timetable from tomorrow (Friday, March 27) as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The new reduced timetable, which will run for an initial three-week period, comes amidst a lockdown on all but essential travel across the whole of the UK. It will be subject to continual review in a rapidly changing environment, but they believe it is sustainable with their current crews.
All islands will receive a regular lifeline service ensuring essential goods and services are delivered.
CalMac were due to transfer from their winter timetable to their normal summer timetable tomorrow but this revised timetable will come into effect instead.
In the last few days passengers on the entire service were down by 85%, cars by 75% and commercial traffic by 45%. In 2019 daily passenger numbers at the end of March were around 9,500, currently they are at 1,500 and these are expected to drop further. CalMac has also seen 8,000 bookings cancelled through their small dedicated contact centre teams compared to just 300 in the same period last year.
This new timetable will see weekly sailings drop from 2419 to 948 against the normal winter timetable – a drop of almost 61%.
‘We believe that this timetable will be able to maximise use of available crews for the vessels and continue to provide our vital lifeline service for communities’, said CalMac’s Managing Director Robbie Drummond.
‘These are extreme times for businesses across Scotland, the UK and indeed the world.
‘As this virus spreads there is the chance that pressure on crewing may require us to make further changes. In this eventuality, we will work to our agreed Route Prioritisation Matrix to ensure that all Islands receive a service.
‘We are in daily contact with the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland to ensure we are on top of all the latest advice and guidance.
‘Given the lockdown from the Government that has made travel essential only, we think this new timetable is one that best suits the needs of the communities we support.
‘It is important that we continue to provide ferries that can take vital goods and services to our island communities and transport people who have essential travel needs. Community groups and key hauliers have been consulted to ensure that the supply chains can be maintained.’
CalMac last week announced that it was not taking any new advanced bookings on any of its routes until at least a travel date of 15 July. It has also stopped selling any food, drink or retail on board any of its vessels.
Staff at the CalMac contact centres have been swamped by a large number of calls and are having to reduce their numbers to accommodate absence.
Refunds for cancelled sailings are being offered online only in a bid to relieve pressure on the centres.
The new timetable can be viewed at www.calmac.co.uk