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Caravans, campervans and motorhomes that do not have a booking are being banned from CalMac’s standby queues.
The new rule, which came into force on August 9, includes any vehicle regardless of size that has sleeping or cooking facilities and will help free up 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 accommodation options. 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.
The new standby rule is a small step forward but appreciated by representative groups from across the island network who have been pushing for changes to the current booking system.
Alasdair Allan, Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP, said: ‘The turn-up-and-go capacity on ferries, while limited, is aimed primarily at helping islanders, since they more often need to travel at short notice. Visitors tend to book far in advance.
‘I have been receiving reports of motorhomes parking in the standby queues at ports overnight, exploiting the fact they are able to sleep in their vehicles and queue ahead of everyone else.
‘This isn’t what the turn-up-and-go tickets are supposed to be for and I am glad to see this particular loophole closed.’
Transport Scotland said in communication with Mull and Iona Ferry Committee that it was a real challenge supporting the tourism industry on which many islanders rely, while preserving the option for islanders to travel at short notice.