Forum calls for immediate action over ferry call-offs
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.’