Ma­jor is­sue

The Arran Banner - - News -

Dear Mr Drum­mond, Thank you for your email of Oc­to­ber 17. Sev­eral fur­ther ques­tions arise from your ex­pla­na­tion and in­for­ma­tion.

In your let­ter you con­firm that across other parts of the fleet the wait-list­ing fa­cil­ity is avail­able, so why not on the Ar­drossan-Brod­ick route? What is pre­vent­ing this?

This is a life­line ferry ser­vice, so why is there no ex­tra ser­vice po­ten­tial for full-time Ar­ran res­i­dents, such as a wait-list book? We are all aware tourists are book­ing well in ad­vance. Your num­bers con­firm what we al­ready ob­serve: ‘Since the in­tro­duc­tion of RET, Ar­ran has seen car­ry­ings in­crease by al­most 16 per cent, with 205,000 cars shipped dur­ing 2017.’

If the ob­jec­tive of the ferry ser­vice is purely eco­nomic and not a life­line, tell us. Ar­ran will be­come less de­sir­able as full-time res­i­dents find their free­doms be­ing cur­tailed and more and more sec­ond homes/rent­ing op­tions/ Airbnb re­place them.

This is al­ready be­com­ing a huge so­cial and com­mu­nity is­sue for the is­land and, al­though I do not ex­pect CalMac to solve this is­sue alone, the way the ferry ser­vice is run is part of the story that must now be of con­cern to ser­vice providers of all sorts.

As full-time res­i­dents, we do not al­ways know weeks in ad­vance when we need to travel to the main­land for such things as hospi­tal ap­point­ments, im­por­tant meet­ings, essentials shop­ping or fam­ily emer­gen­cies. I find your state­ment: ‘As part of the new Clyde and He­brides con­tract, we can­not dif­fer­en­ti­ate by sales chan­nel. In other words, all cus­tomers should have equal ac­cess - on a first come, first served ba­sis - to our book­ing in­ven­tory’, bodes ill for the fu­ture.

The Brod­ick book was only ac­ces­si­ble to those who con­tacted the port in per­son or via phone and there­fore gave lo­cal res­i­dents at least a chance. Clearly, as a life­line ferry for the full-time res­i­dents of Ar­ran, CalMac’s pub­lic­ity makes great play on vi­tal is­land ser­vices.

‘Scot­land’s var­i­ous ferry ser­vices are a vi­tal life­line for is­land res­i­dents’, says VisitS­cot­land, and the First Min­is­ter has said she is ‘de­ter­mined’ to im­prove ferry ser­vices to Scot­land’s is­land com­mu­ni­ties in the wake of wide­spread con­cern over re­li­a­bil­ity (The Her­ald, Septem­ber 13, 2018).

The Ar­drossan Har­bour Task­force, re­ported in Trans­portNet­work on April 10 2018, as hav­ing iden­ti­fied its pre­ferred de­sign op­tion for the har­bour up­grade, which aims to im­prove the fa­cil­ity’s op­er­a­tions and re­silience ahead of the in­tro­duc­tion of a new, larger ferry. In the re­port, North Ayr­shire Coun­cil leader Joe Cul­li­nane wel­comed the de­ci­sion ‘along­side our part­ners on the work­ing group, we have been work­ing hard to en­sure Ar­drossan Har­bour is of a stan­dard which will al­low it to sup­port to life­line ferry ser­vices and the new ves­sel on the Ar­ran route for many years to come’.

Last week, The Ar­ran Ban­ner records CalMac’s award as Ferry Op­er­a­tor of the Year 2018 at the Na­tional Trans­port Awards, ‘pro­vid­ing a first class customer ex­pe­ri­ence’. I note you added: ‘Our core mar­ket is life­line ser­vices we pro­vide to com­mu­ni­ties across the area, but the pop­u­lar­ity of our ser­vices with vis­i­tors is grow­ing year on year.’

You men­tion that the wait-list book is a prob­lem and non-vi­able since the in­tro­duc­tion of the GDPR leg­is­la­tion. If we, as cus­tomers, are will­ing to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and con­firm it can be listed by writ­ten hand in a book held at the ter­mi­nal for staff to read, how can it be against the law? Clearly, for many full-time res­i­dent is­landers, it is a pos­i­tive al­ter­na­tive to hav­ing no chance of a car book­ing on a cer­tain date and time. Do full-time is­land res­i­dents no longer de­serve a true life­line ferry ser­vice?

Since RET was in­tro­duced, tourism has ex­ploded on Ar­ran. Full-time res­i­dent is­landers be­gin to feel that their needs are be­ing dis­counted in the rush to ‘in­creased eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity’. The is­land’s abil­ity to at­tract and re­tain full-time res­i­dents, whether born on the is­land or in­com­ers, is para­mount for wider ser­vices to con­tinue, be they med­i­cal, school­ing, so­cial ser­vices of all sorts and com­mer­cial. It is vi­tal that CalMac con­sults with the wider com­mu­nity on what life­line is now com­ing to mean. Too many op­tions purely for growth in num­bers on the ferry and vis­it­ing Ar­ran is not an op­tion if it dis­counts the im­por­tance of life­line ferry for the full-time res­i­dent is­landers.

I would like to in­vite you

to Ar­ran to come along and dis­cuss with all in­ter­ested par­ties in the com­mu­nity what this term ‘life­line ferry’ ac­tu­ally means to­day and how our ser­vice could bet­ter re­spond to that term in the fu­ture.

I fully ap­pre­ci­ate that the ma­jor is­sue that I am rais­ing here de­mands at­ten­tion more in the po­lit­i­cal arena of trans­port op­er­at­ing pol­icy in Scot­land than in sim­ply de­liv­er­ing an ef­fi­cient ferry op­er­at­ing ser­vice.

Yours, Dr Sally Camp­bell, Lam­lash.

Rob­bie Drum­mond, CalMac man­ag­ing direc­tor.

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