An open let­ter to the trans­port min­is­ter

The Oban Times - - Letters -

Sir, I write on be­half of my­self, the direc­tors and busi­ness mem­bers of Lochaber Cham­ber of Com­merce to ex­press our con­tin­ued, and very se­ri­ous, con­cerns about the pub­lished sum­mer timetable from Cal­Mac.

Lochaber Cham­ber of Com­merce is ap­peal­ing for an ur­gent eco­nomic im­pact anal­y­sis to be car­ried out be­fore fur­ther harm is caused to the re­gion. There are clear in­di­ca­tors of the ad­verse af­fect on busi­ness rev­enue, busi­ness prof­its and jobs from the down­graded 2016 Cal­Mac ser­vice.

Pub­lic con­cerns about the Mal­laig-Ar­madale ferry ser­vice are gen­uine and have been re­peat­edly voiced. At our meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 31, 2016, you per­son­ally promised that you would not al­low the ser­vice to be as poor as it was in 2016 again in 2017. Yet no ev­i­dence has been pro­duced to re­store con­fi­dence over busi­ness sur­vival and jobs. The pre­dicted level of Cal­Mac can­cel­la­tions is highly likely to cause the same trav­eller anger and cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion and lower in­come for the area as in 2016.

Dou­glas El­lies, fer­ries con­tract man­ager, ad­vised the Cham­ber of Com­merce that Trans­port Scot­land would be ‘ap­point­ing a new di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity and stake­holder en­gage­ment post and a com­mu­ni­ties board to bet­ter in­volve com­mu­ni­ties in in­vest­ment and ser­vice de­ci­sions’.

We hope this ap­point­ment is a top pri­or­ity and, if an ap­point­ment has al­ready been made, would want to know who the new di­rec­tor is and what his plans are to ad­dress the scan­dalous ab­sence of stake­holder en­gage­ment in ser­vice de­ci­sions af­fect­ing Lochaber.

We re­main pos­i­tive that a work­able so­lu­tion can be found and will con­tinue to press for the MV Coruisk or a ves­sel of sim­i­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tion to be de­ployed to the most iconic, and fifth most pop­u­lar wa­ter cross­ing in Scot­land. Les­ley Ben­field, Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Lochaber Cham­ber of Com­merce.

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