CalMac standby queues are no-go for motorhomers

CalMac says it is still working out the details of Transport Scotland's  announcement so could not say at this time what would happen with islanders who have campervans and motorhomes.

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Caravans, campers and motorhomes that do not have a booking are being banned from CalMac’s standby queues.

The new rule  includes any vehicle regardless of size that has sleeping or cooking facilities and will also help free up extra space for islanders needing to travel last minute.

Islanders who run sleeper vehicles as their only transport will be exempt from the standby ban as long as they can prove residency –  a utility bill will do.

Finlay MacRae, Head of Operations for CalMac, said: ‘To optimise deck space at the end of loading, motorhomes, campervans and caravans will no longer be given a standby or waitlist position on all bookable routes – either at the reservation stage or on the day of sailing.

‘Restricting larger vehicles in standby lanes will allow us to make the best use of any remaining space for smaller vehicles, whose occupants may not have alternative options available for accommodation. It will also remove the issue of larger vehicles filling up standby lanes, and smaller vehicles having to be pulled out of car lanes if that is all that can be shipped at the end of the loading process.

‘This does not apply to motorhomes, caravans and campervans that belong to island residents who will continue to be able to use standby options. Island residency will be confirmed at the point of booking or point of application to join the standby queue and can be evidenced with a proof of address from a utility bill or similar.’

Increasing ferry fares for those kind of sleeper and cook-in vehicles is also being explored as part of a package of other short-term options that could potentially be brought in.

The new standby rule is a small step forward but appreciated say Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) who have long been pushing Transport Scotland to come up with solutions to help islanders and their vehicles get spaces on the busy main bookable route to Oban.

Representative groups from across the entire island network have also been urging for changes to the current booking system.

MIFC chairman Joe Reade said: ‘The net benefit will be small but appreciated. To have campervans arrive on spec and be loaded in front of local cars that might have an urgent need to travel but not have been able to book has not sat well with islanders.’

‘This is now a small step in the right direction and it seems it is being enabled in a pragmatic way. However, there’s still lots of work to be done as the issue of insufficient capacity remains.’

Transport Scotland said in communication with MIFC that it was a real challenge supporting the tourism industry on which many islanders rely while preserving the option for islanders to travel freely at short notice.

‘We are exploring short-term options with CalMac that could potentially be introduced.  This includes considering motorhome fare levels and demand management measures, options to providing greater access for islanders such as phased opening of capacity, and any opportunities provided by the new ticketing system being introduced next year.

‘In the meantime, we are pleased to confirm that from August 9, CalMac will restrict motorhomes/ caravans (defined as any motorhome vehicle regardless of size that has sleeping/cooking facilities or caravans of any length) from standby queues.’

News of the standby restriction rule had initially caused some concern among islanders whose only vehicles are campervans and motorhomes.

Their worries included being restricted in joining the standby queue for any essential last minute journeys and also facing the prospect of paying increased prices.

There were calls for islanders with vans and motorhomes to be exempt from those changes.