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The MV Hallaig will no longer be used as emergency cover for the Lochaline to Fishnish ferry after the area’s MSP Kate Forbes secured a fresh commitment from CalMac for Isle of Raasay residents.
The MV Hallaig had often been withdrawn from the Sconser route at short notice, leaving islanders with the much smaller MV Loch Linnhe struggling to keep up with demand – often creating lengthy queues and waiting times in the process due to insufficient capacity.
At Ms Forbes’ request, CalMac will also no longer use the MV Loch Linnhe – which cannot carry more than 10 vehicles per crossing – as relief when the MV Hallaig is in for its annual refit, but instead will use the MV Loch Tarbert or MV Loch Bhrusda – both of which can carry at least 18 vehicles.
Welcoming the news, Anne Gillies from Raasay Community Council said: ‘For many years Raasay’s ferry Hallaig was taken to relieve the Lochaline – Fishnish ferry when it went for its annual overhaul.
‘This caused real problems on Raasay because it was replaced by the Loch Linnhe – little more than a third of the size of the Hallaig – which meant you could not rely on getting on or off the island when you wanted. Island businesses also faced delays in getting supplies across.
‘We thought on several occasions that meetings with CalMac staff had addressed this issue, but time and again the Hallaig sailed off for Mull.
‘At long last, we have a written assurance from CalMac’s managing director that Hallaig will no longer be routinely required to cover the MV Lochinvar and also that Hallaig should be replaced by a ferry capable of taking 18 cars.
‘We see this as a major step forward and are grateful to Kate for her efforts in securing this assurance.’
Ms Forbes told the Lochaber Times: ‘I am very pleased that CalMac agree the MV Hallaig should be serving Raasay rather than being designated as the ‘relief vessel’ for the Lochaline to Mull run.
‘This has been a considerable cause of concern for residents and businesses on the island.
‘I am also pleased that when the MV Hallaig goes in for its annual refit, either the Loch Tarbert or the Bhrusda will serve as the temporary replacement.
‘There are a lot of exciting developments on Raasay, and I am pleased that CalMac has recognised the island’s growing economic profile as they reprioritised their fleet of smaller vessels.’