Delivering Covid-clean ferries delays Mull post

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Extended turnaround times to keep ferries Covid-clean have cut five return sailings a week from Oban to Mull.

The change to sailing times, because of the now 30-minute rather than 15-minute turnarounds needed to clean the boat between batches of passengers, is also having a knock-on effect on Mull’s post.

With the winter timetable up and running, delays to the post are causing concern among some on the island with claims that first-class postage from Mull is getting a third-class service.

The Oban Times understands that since the introduction of CalMac’s new winter timetable, Royal Mail has moved mail destined for Mull to the second ferry leaving Oban each day – and the mail  coming back is not leaving Craignure any earlier than 5.10pm or 5pm on a Saturday.

The later time means that once back in Oban, the mail misses its connection to Glasgow sorting office and therefore is left overnight in the town before continuing its journey the next day.

Mull’s newly-formed community council was briefed on the situation at its inaugural meeting last week.

Convenor Graham Alexander said: ‘It is an issue of great concern and at the moment there does not appear to be easy solutions.’ But he paid tribute to the island’s hardworking posties, saying: ‘Our postal staff have been amazing and have worked  tirelessly  during Covid. It is frustrating and we will make every effort to raise awareness, especially  if folk are sending time-sensitive correspondence.’

A 1st class letter to London posted into a mailbox away from a main road on Mull on a Monday afternoon, for example, would not be collected by a postal worker until about noon on the Tuesday. That letter would not get to Oban until the Wednesday evening and would then have to wait until Thursday morning to be taken to Glasgow sorting office, arriving there in the afternoon – meaning the earliest it could be  delivered to London would be Friday morning.

Businesses using Royal Mail will also be impacted.

Joe Reade, the chairman of Mull & Iona Ferry Committee told The Oban Times that the committee would normally have plenty of time to consult on timetables before they are introduced, and in turn would run consultations with the community on any possible amendments. But this year due to Covid, its members had just a matter of days to respond.

He continued: ‘There was therefore no time to perform any kind of meaningful local consultation, and in any case, the options open to us were very limited. In dialogue with CalMac we ensured that all the key public transport links were maintained, including co-ordinating the timetable with the Iona service, but the need for 30-minute turnarounds made it impossible to maintain the departure times that Royal Mail were used to.

‘While this is an immediate problem that hopefully Royal Mail can overcome, we are also concerned that next summer’s timetable may again have to be rewritten in order to accommodate 30-minute turnarounds,’ added Mr Reade.