Fo­rum calls for im­me­di­ate ac­tion over ferry call-offs

The Oban Times - - News -

A FO­RUM has called for im­me­di­ate ac­tion from the Scot­tish trans­port min­is­ter af­ter ferry can­cel­la­tions in­di­cate the mis­takes of last year have not been rec­ti­fied.

Sleat Trans­port Fo­rum (STF) has ex­pressed ‘ex­treme con­cern’ wide­spread dis­rup­tion of the Mal­laig to Ar­madale ferry ser­vice ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the first two weeks of the sum­mer timetable may have set the tone for what is to come this sum­mer.

Ac­cord­ing to STF, there have been 36 ser­vice can­cel­la­tions on the Mal­laig to Ar­madale route since the sea­son started on March 31, in­clud­ing weather can­cel­la­tions last Wed­nes­day. This fig­ure is ap­proach­ing 10 per cent of the 395 ser­vice can­cel­la­tions dur­ing the en­tire 2016 sea­son us­ing three ves­sels and al­most 50 per cent of the to­tal ser­vice can­cel­la­tions of 76 dur­ing the sum­mer of 2015 when the ser­vice was op­er­ated by a sin­gle ves­sel MV Coruisk.

CalMac’s de­ci­sion in 2016 to re­move MV Coruisk from the route was met with con­tro­versy. Fol­low­ing the ‘un­ac­cept­able level of ser­vice’ last sum­mer, the op­er­a­tor has de­ployed two ves­sels on the route this year, MV Loch Fyne and MV Lord of the Isles. But the fo­rum be­lieves the de­sign of these boats makes them un­fit for pur­pose on this route.

A spokesman for the STF said: ‘This [the ser­vice dis­rup­tion] is due en­tirely to the de­ploy­ment of un­suit­able ves­sels on the route which are af­fected by tides and un­able to op­er­ate in mod­er­ate winds. These prob­lems were fore­seen by the fo­rum and the com­mu­ni­ties on both sides of the Sound of Sleat but all at­tempts to se­cure a re­li­able and reg­u­lar ser­vice have fallen on deaf ears at both the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and CalMac. The prob­lem could be re­solved at a stroke by the re­turn of the MV Coruisk, the ves­sel pur­pose-built for the route which is at present de­ployed as a sec­ond ship on the Oban- Craignure ser­vice.

‘There are other op­tions avail­able to meet the needs of Oban- Craignure route if the will ex­isted to look at these.’

Roddy Mur­ray, chair­man of the STF, con­tin­ued: ‘The con­tin­u­ing daily dis­rup­tion will have a detri­men­tal im­pact on lo­cal economies lead­ing to the loss of em­ploy­ment and a down­turn in busi­ness.

‘De­spite all as­sur­ances from CalMac and Trans­port Scot­land that last year’s un­ac­cept­able ser­vice would not be re­peated, the sit­u­a­tion has not im­proved and Sleat Trans­port Fo­rum ap­peals once again to the Min­is­ter for Trans­port and Is­lands Humza Yousaf MSP and his of­fi­cials to take im­me­di­ate steps to re­trieve the sit­u­a­tion and en­able an ef­fec­tive and re­li­able ser­vice to be pro­vided.’

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