Tor­rid week

The Arran Banner - - Letters -

An open let­ter to Rob­bie Drum­mond, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Cal­Mac.

Sir, On Mon­day Au­gust 20, up to 448 pas­sen­gers were given just 16 hours no­tice that their ferry tick­ets for the MV Isle of Ar­ran were use­less for the booked sail­ings. Cal­Mac then ad­vised pas­sen­gers the Ar­ran ferry ter­mi­nal had shut their IT book­ing sys­tems down be­cause of in­for­ma­tion-over­load and it could take up to a week to sort out.

First, Cal­Mac call cen­tre staff at the sharp end, an­swer­ing the tele­phones, deal­ing with up­set and anx­ious cus­tomers, should be highly com­mended. A dif­fi­cult job for ferry firm folk. From the five con­ver­sa­tions I had, all of your Cal­Mac staff han­dled these chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions calmly, pro­fes­sion­ally and with good grace. But Mr Drum­mond, this should not be hap­pen­ing. Cal­Mac have been in the busi­ness since 1851. If the ships aren’t run­ning prop­erly af­ter 167 years of try­ing to get this right, then when?

The MV Isle of Ar­ran will be off for days and thou­sands of pas­sen­gers will be let down to some de­gree. On top of this, there is ‘the list’. Cal­Mac cus­tomer com­plaints that reg­u­larly grace this let­ter’s page in the Ar­ran Ban­ner. For ex­am­ple: (i) Brod­ick Ferry Ter­mi­nal be­ing a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem for folk who have a dis­abil­ity; (ii) The prof­li­gate waste of £30m for a ferry ter­mi­nal that should cost no more than £6m to build; (iii) The £100m cost of tax­payer fund­ing for overly large fer­ries which are ob­scenely too ex­pen­sive and over­sized for the Ar­ran ser­vice; (iv) the sig­nif­i­cant dock­ing prob­lem and missed sail­ings that will hap­pen at Ar­drossan when the MV Glen San­nox and MV Cor­po­rate Ego can’t get into the main­land port be­cause of the mas­sive sail area on the slab-sided ves­sels; (v) the mil­lions of pounds in wasted fuel by cart­ing crew ac­com­mo­da­tion on the ship’s struc­ture like some mas­sive wet car­a­van, when the ship­ping op­er­a­tor would re­duce the tax­payer bur­den by pro­vid­ing crew houses in Ar­drossan and Brod­ick; (vi) the his­toric se­nior man­age­ment fail­ure in pre­par­ing for Road Equiv­a­lent Tar­iff traf­fic growth. The list goes on and on. Enough to fill a whole edi­tion of the Ar­ran Ban­ner.

Mr Drum­mond, you have a very im­pres­sive CV: Cal­Mac group fi­nance di­rec­tor, tran­si­tion di­rec­tor, bid di­rec­tor and ser­vice de­liv­ery di­rec­tor. One of the best in a gen­er­a­tion of Cal­Mac man­ag­ing di­rec­tors. Here is a golden op­por­tu­nity for you to make per­ma­nent your po­si­tion, and en­sure Cal­Mac sur­vives be­yond the next ten­der round.

Con­struc­tive suggestion: please send the two mas­sive new-builds to serve the Outer He­brides where they are much more suited. Then go back to the draw­ing board. Ask your naval ar­chi­tect for a medium-size ‘class’ of ship de­sign at £9m each. Or­der three for starters. Then ro­tate two of them on the Ar­drossan-Brod­ick route. Plug in the third when it gets overly busy. That works well. Don’t take my word for it. Cast your eyes up the Clyde to Western Fer­ries. They have the right size of ves­sel for their ser­vice. They plug in an ex­tra ship to suit the ex­i­gen­cies and de­mands of their route. If you bring three mid-sized ships such as mod­ern equiv­a­lents of 1985 vin­tage MV Hebridean Isles and 1983 MV Isle of Ar­ran plus an­other of this class (mod­ern 20182020 de­sign) to Ar­ran, then is­lan­ders will have a ferry ser­vice that starts at 5am in the morn­ing and ends each day at 11pm. There will be a re­li­able back-up ship to cover ex­tra de­mand to plug in at Brod­ick, just as Western Fer­ries do at Hun­ters Quay. We would avoid night­mare break­downs such as this week.

If Cal­Mac do not get the nu­mer­ous prob­lems sorted out on the Ar­ran route, then Mr Drum­mond, how about leas­ing the old Brod­ick ferry ter­mi­nal and linkspan to some of the dis­grun­tled is­lan­ders/pas­sen­gers who have been watch­ing Cal­Mac fail to learn lessons over the past 50 years? There is more than enough qual­i­fied, ex­pe­ri­enced and able peo­ple on the is­land to run our own ferry ser­vice. This hap­pened up at Orkney. An­drew Banks’s Pent­land Fer­ries is an ex­em­plar of how a lo­cal ferry com­pany should and can work.

In­stead, here on Ar­ran, each time we get one of these nau­ti­cal night­mares, it risks the jobs of peo­ple who live and work on the is­land. Mr Drum­mond, I would be amazed if you replied to this let­ter, but very happy if you stick your head above the para­pet and speak to many of the dis­tressed pas­sen­gers re­gard­ing this lat­est, tor­rid ferry week.

Yours, Russ McLean, San­nox.

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