Local News for Tuesday 3rd April 2018
MSP steps in to ferry chaos
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has stepped in to raise the problems affecting ferry users in North Uist and Harris with both Calmac and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf. The MV Hebridean Isles is now covering the routes from Uig to Tarbert and Lochmaddy, while MV Hebrides is away servicing other routes and Clansman is in dry dock. Dr Allan said: “The capacity of the relief vessel on the ‘Uig Triangle’ route is clearly not enough to cope with the demands of passengers at this time of year, as recent days have shown. The crew of MV Hebridean Isles have put in a huge effort trying to cope, for which they deserve thanks, and there have also been some extra sailings by the Lochboisdale ferry to try to pick up the strain for people in Uist. With MV Hebrides not due back on the route for a month or so, there is a real problem on these routes. As local MSP, I have urged Calmac to take whatever measures are possible to ensure that capacity is available for people to travel to and from Lochmaddy and Tarbert adequately in the coming weeks.”
CalMac has admitted that the situation this week is just the start of a probable summer of discontent, with ageing vessels and the increasing popularity of the Hebrides as a holiday destination creating a recipe for trouble. Nearly half of the ferries working island routes are already beyond their 25-year life expectancy and the risk of mechanical failures and breakdown is growing. Robbie Drummond, interim managing director of CalMac, said: "We ask a lot of our fleet, and indeed our people, at the busiest time of year on our network. I am very conscious of the workload our boats will be undertaking and the strain that puts them under, particularly the older vessels in the fleet. We're already dealing with the consequences of that reality and I'd like to apologise to everyone as the MV Clansman is currently in dry dock awaiting the return of the propulsion unit sent to Denmark for repairs. CMAL is investing in new ferries, with the Glen Sannox due to be launched in November. Until then, we will of course proactively manage as best we can with the current fleet, but I fear that it will, at times, cause issues on some of our routes."