Scottish Daily Mail

Fury as CalMac axes ‘life-blood’ bookings for isle’s coach tours

- By Moira Kerr

UNDER-FIRE CalMac chiefs have caused further fury after cancelling ferry bookings for coach tours to the Isle of Mull.

The troubled state-owned company has scrapped the Hebridean island’s ‘life-blood’ bus tours until May 27, after the Isle of Mull vessel was deployed to provide emergency cover for South Uist and Barra.

With the smaller Coruisk and Loch Frisa ferries unable to cope with demand, island businesses claim they are suffering huge trade losses that could see them lose staff during the less lucrative winter months.

Claire Mackenzie Noble, who owns Tobermory Bakery and Tearoom, said those affected had not been warned of the coach cancellati­ons, which will mean a critical loss of trade.

Mrs Noble said: ‘It’s horrendous. We rely heavily on the tour buses that come in for the day. I am down 30-40 per cent and other small businesses say they are averaging the same.’

The 35-year-old added: ‘I have worked here since I was 17 then, five years ago, I got the chance to buy it. We were hit by Covid, then electricit­y price rises. I am at a point where I want to sell, it’s just too stressful.

‘I have three full-time staff and three part-timers just now and we rely on the summer income to keep the girls here all year round.

‘It’s going to get to a point where in the winter I don’t think I can keep all my staff on. They should be subsidisin­g the businesses for loss of business.’

Neil Morrison, boss of MacGochan’s, in Tobermory, which this week won the Scottish Hospitalit­y live entertainm­ent venue of the year award, said: ‘We are about 20-30 per cent down on last year. They certainly seem to have hammered us from all angles.’

Coach driver Adrian Fitness, who works for West Coast Motors on Mull, has been inundated with desperate tour companies trying to hire island-based coaches. He said: ‘The way CalMac has treated this island is deplorable. Mull is in a mess, it’s chaos. Last week it was like rats deserting a sinking ship as visitors tried to get off the island before the ferry went off.’

Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: ‘We apologise for the disruption. We made it a priority to find ways to increase capacity to and from Mull between May 13 and 27. We are offering the best solution we possibly can using the limited options available. I am certain that these additional steps will provide much-needed support to the island.’

Meanwhile, people took to social media yesterday to complain when ferry passengers were unable to book CalMac journeys after a new online platform was plagued by issues on its launch day.

A company spokesman said more than 5,000 bookings had been processed and it was dealing with issues as they arose. In a tweet, the company said: ‘Our teams are working to resolve this as soon as possible.’

Scottish Conservati­ve transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: ‘This whole situation is an ongoing nightmare for islanders and visitors.’

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