More time needed for CalMac feedback

Islay's two new CalMac ferries will operate in the busiest route on the Clyde and Hebrides network. The 95 metre long vessels will have the capacity of 275-lanemeter for HGVs on the main deck, and a total of 107 cars on both main and hoistable decks.

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Islay’s community council ferry committee (ICCFC) is asking CalMac for more time to have a say on the ferry operator’s proposed new terms and conditions.

A period of 30 days was initially given for formal feedback after the committee had a meeting with CalMac customer experience manager Alan Hood but a one-week extension is now being asked for.

Members strongly opposed the proposals that include charges for cancellations and no shows.

Reporting back from that meeting to last week’s community council, Jim Porteous said it was not good timing for CalMac to try and bring in these changes in light of a winter of breakdowns.

‘After a winter of regular breakdowns, to be imposing rules on people and punishing them in this way does not seem to be well timed,’ said Mr Porteous.

He said proposed exceptions to those rules were ‘extreme’ and there would need to be some kind of appeals process.

Excluding lorry block bookings from the rules would be seen by many as completely unfair while the Islay community and visitors are being ‘hammered’, added Mr Porteous.

It was suggested CalMac should instead try and identify regular offenders and tighten up on them rather than take a ‘sledgehammer to a nut’ approach.

CalMac is also consulting with other ferry committees at the moment.

Meantime, potentially beneficial timetable changes are still being worked on for Islay, says CalMac.

Not all ferries seem to be full for now but the test will come in the peak months of June, July and August, said Mr Porteous.

Earlier this month, ICCFC representatives met with CMAL, the ferries and ports asset owner, to discuss progress regarding the island’s two new ferries and to highlight concerns regarding the readiness of port modification work.

CMAL confirmed that completion of marshalling space works at Port Ellen may not be until 2026 due to  time needed to get a harbour revision order and planning consents, community councillors were told.

ICCFC is also waiting for an update from Argyll and Bute Council about options and timelines for shoreside work at Port Askaig.

A date for a community drop-in updating people on work at both ports for the new ferries will be confirmed soon; July 4 had been suggested but school holidays start on June 30.

Questions are also being raised with CalMac about the risk of electric vehicles combusting.

‘For example, should they be categorised separately from other vehicles to enable a degree of segregation, if not now, perhaps in future as the numbers increase?’ said Mr Porteous.

Also ICCFC has asked if the ferries carry adequate fire fighting materials and sufficient safety gear to protect from toxic chemical fumes if a fire broke out.

‘CalMac advises that it is consulting with the MCA and guidance is expected to emerge soon,’ added Mr Porteous.

ICCFC’s next meeting will be on June 8.