Sum­mit set to deal with Is­lay ferry dis­rup­tion

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­

AF­TER two weeks of can­cel­la­tions and ferry trou­ble on main­land to Is­lay routes, MSP Michael Rus­sell has called a sum­mit to get to the bot­tom of the is­sues.

Is­lan­ders were shocked when the reg­u­lar ferry the MV He­bridean Isles was taken for re­pair af­ter it hit the pier at Ken­nacraig on July 23.

Re­duced ca­pac­ity meant ve­hi­cles and pas­sen­gers were of­ten left be­hind dur­ing the busiest two weeks on the is­land.

Re­spond­ing to the huge num­ber of con­cerns raised with him, Mr Rus­sell, MSP for Ar­gyll and Bute, has an­nounced that he will be host­ing a ferry sum­mit on Is­lay, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Is­lay Com­mu­nity Coun­cil Ferry Com­mit­tee.

The ves­sel struck Ken­nacraig Pier dur­ing the evening of Satur­day July 23 and had to be taken to dry dock for re­pairs.

This meant that the ser­vice was op­er­ated by a sin­gle ves­sel, the MV Fin­lag­gan, from that date un­til Tues­day Au­gust 9.

Mr Rus­sell added: ‘The lack of an ef­fec­tive con­tin­gency plan to deal with the sit­u­a­tion that oc­curred on the July 23 was ex­tra­or­di­nary but it is not enough for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and Trans­port Scot­land to point the fin­ger of blame at the com­pany.

‘At ev­ery level there has been a sys­temic fail­ure to en­sure that there are suf­fi­cient re­sources and ves­sels to pro­vide back up in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, and there now needs to be a de­tailed re­view of the route and its re­la­tion­ship to other routes and the to­tal­ity of ser­vices pro­vided by the com­pany.

‘I have there­fore sug­gested to the Is­lay Com­mu­nity Coun­cil Ferry Com­mit­tee that we jointly host a sum­mit on the is­land in Oc­to­ber to which we will in­vite all the key play­ers, in­clud­ing Cal­Mac, Trans­port Scot­land and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

‘The pur­pose of the sum­mit will be to al­low the facts about the dis­rup­tion to be put on record, for the dam­age to the is­land econ­omy and in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses to be quan­ti­fied, and for agree­ment to be reached on a con­tin­gency plan which would en­sure that this can­not hap­pen again.’

Is­lay McEach­ern, chair­woman of the Is­lay Com­mu­nity Coun­cil Ferry Com­mit­tee said: ‘As a com­mit­tee, and on be­half to the is­land, we have to en­sure that there is no rep­e­ti­tion of what has taken place too of­ten in re­cent years.

‘The sum­mit must re­sult in a cast iron com­mit­ment from the com­pany, Trans­port Scot­land and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to put in place ar­range­ments to en­sure this can never hap­pen again.

‘They have to have con­tin­gency plans to cope with it, as well as with any other fore­see­able emer­gency and th­ese need to be writ­ten in to the new con­tract for the west coast ser­vices which was won by Cal­Mac only a cou­ple of months ago.

‘Is­lay sim­ply can­not af­ford to have this sit­u­a­tion re­cur­ring again and again. The sum­mit is our op­por­tu­nity to en­sure that there is an open trans­par­ent and ac­count­able plan in place for the fu­ture.’

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