Trans­port fo­rum’s warn­ing over Mal­laig ferry changes

The Oban Times - - News -

FERRY op­er­a­tor CalMac has said ferry ser­vices will not be down­graded as it an­nounces a third ves­sel to serve the Ar­madale to Mal­laig route.

How­ever, a com­mu­nity group on Skye has warned plans to run three boats with a vary­ing timetable would cause ‘se­ri­ous dis­rup­tion’ to pas­sen­gers.

Sleat Trans­port Fo­rum, a group set up last year by Sleat Com­mu­nity Coun­cil on Skye to ad­dress trans­port is­sues, has said the new pro­pos­als will cause ‘con­fu­sion and dis­rup­tion’.

The de­ci­sion to add the third ferry comes af­ter pres­sure on both CalMac and Trans­port Scot­land by both the fo­rum and lo­cal politi­cians, amid fears busi­nesses, tourism and lo­cal life on Skye could be badly af­fected by the changes.

The Coruisk ferry cur­rently serves the route, with ca­pac­ity for 40 ve­hi­cles, but it has now been ear­marked for Oban to Craignure jour­neys, which are ex­pected to see a rise in pas­sen­gers this sum­mer with the in­tro­duc­tion of the Road Equiv­a­lent Tar­iff (RET).

CalMac has pro­posed to re­place Coruisk with the Lochin­var boat, which can take only 22 cars and has ‘in­ad­e­quate’ pas­sen­ger fa­cil­i­ties on­board, ac­cord­ing to Sleat Trans­port Fo­rum. The Lochin­var will be sup­ple­mented by runs by the larger Lord of the Isles in be­tween serv­ing Lochbois­dale (South Uist) from Mal­laig, and CalMac an­nounced it will in­tro­duce a third ves­sel, the MV Bhrusda, to aid at peak times. This means there will be three sep­a­rate timeta­bles over the sum­mer pe­riod.

Roddy Mur­ray, the Sleet Trans­port Fo­rum’s chair­man, said: ‘Busi­nesses in Sleat de­pen­dent on tourism re­quire a defini­tive sched­ule for the sum­mer sea­son but the lack of a suit­able fi­nalised timetable with suf­fi­cient ca­pac­ity leaves them in limbo. CalMac’s lat­est pro­posal to run three fer­ries with shoul­der and peak pe­riod timeta­bles will cause un­cer­tainty, con­fu­sion and se­ri­ous dis­rup­tion at Mal­laig and at Ar­madale. It is not con­sid­ered a vi­able op­tion.’

The is­sues were due to be dis­cussed on Tues­day night at the Sleat Com­mu­nity Coun­cil meet­ing.

Dave Thomp­son, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Bade­noch, has had ex­ten­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions with CalMac and trans­port min­is­ter Derek Mackay, re­gard­ing their pro­posed new ferry pro­vi­sions. He said he was dis­ap­pointed the MV Coruisk will be re- de­ployed to the Oban to Mull ser­vice. How­ever he added that he ‘re­luc­tantly ac­cepted’ the ex­tra ves­sel at peak times, and he would be mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

He said: ‘As some­one who has been cam­paign­ing to keep the MV Coruisk for the Mal­laig to Ar­madale Cross­ing, I re­acted with dis­ap­point­ment at the news that the MV Coruisk will be re­de­ployed to Oban to Mull.

‘From my re­cent meet­ing with the Trans­port Min­is­ter, Derek Mackay, I am in­formed that the ex­pected in­crease on the Craignure to Oban ser­vice is sig­nif­i­cantly higher than that ex­pected of Mal­laig to Ar­madale ser­vice.

‘How­ever, it is wel­come news that the MV Bhrusda will take the ves­sels op­er­at­ing on the cross­ing from two to three and that there will be greater fre­quen­cies of sail­ings and a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in ca­pac­ity to meet the ex­pected ex­tra de­mand on the route from RET, in­clud­ing an ear­lier ser­vice in the morn­ing for Mal­laig to Ar­madale.

‘A re­view of tourist bus sched­ules will be re­quired, which will in­volve de­tailed dis­cus­sions with tourist bus oper­a­tors to en­sure tourists and lo­cals are prop­erly ac­com­mo­dated by the new ex­tra sail­ings.

‘Given the ex­pan­sion in de­mand that will oc­cur with the in­tro­duc­tion of RET on the Mal­laig to Ar­madale Cross­ing, it is crit­i­cal that the ca­pac­ity and fre­quency matches that, de­spite the loss of the MV Coruisk. So, whilst I am heart­ened at news of ex­tra sail­ings and sig­nif­i­cantly en­hanced ca­pac­ity, in­clud­ing an ex­tra early morn­ing ser­vice, I will be keep­ing a close eye on how the sit­u­a­tion de­vel­ops to make sure we get the best deal for Mal­laig to Ar­madale, and I wel­come the fact that CalMac has com­mit­ted to keep­ing the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­stant re­view.’

A CalMac spokesman said: ‘This is a ser­vice en­hance­ment on the Mal­laig-Ar­madale route for this sum­mer. Three ves­sels will pro­vide more ser­vices, more fre­quently and over­all have a higher ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity than the MV Coruisk pro­vided. We are con­fi­dent this will meet any ex­tra de­mand the in­tro­duc­tion of RET may stim­u­late.’

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DIS­AP­POINTED: Skye, Lochaber and Bade­noch MSP Dave Thomp­son.

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