A twice-a-week winter ferry service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale starts this week (weather permitting).
It is the first time a service has operated on this route since 2001, and signals the start of a three year pilot announced by Transport Minister Keith Brown in September.
The service will provide two return sailings per day on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
The first sailing by MV Lord of the Isles will leave Lochboisdale at 0600 hrs on Tuesday, November 12, arriving in Mallaig at 0930 hrs. It will then return to Lochboisdale at 0945hrs arriving at 1315hrs. The second return sailing will depart Lochboisdale at 1400hrs arriving in Mallaig at 1730hrs, then depart at 1815hrs arriving in Lochboisdale at 2145hrs. The same timetable will apply on Saturdays.
Transport Minister, Keith Brown, said: “The Scottish Government has listened to local communities and I am delighted to see sailings start on the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route. The Lord of the Isles will be a welcome sight for the local communities.
“In the Ferries Plan we made clear our intention to consider introducing a Mallaig – Lochboisdale service, when deciding on the specification for the next tendered CHFS contract and we are delighted to have been able to do this now, earlier than planned. This new pilot service complements a series of planned improvements to the winter services to South Uist and Barra, with sailings on the winter timetable on the Oban-South Uist and Oban-Barra routes increased as part of a revised and enhanced timetable this winter. In addition, as part of our Ferries Plan, we will be making further planned enhancements to ferry services across Scotland over the next decade.
“I hope the three-year pilot is a success and would encourage use of the extra services being made available.”
Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac Ferries Ltd, said: “We know how much this service means to the South Uist community and are pleased to have been able to help Transport Scotland make it possible. We hope it will prove popular, not just to ferry travellers to and from South Uist, but also as an alternative means of reaching Barra, North Uist and Benbecula. The service is also a welcome addition to our services out of Mallaig.”
This winter’s pilot will run through to early April with a short three week break in February when MV Lord of the Isles is unavailable due to refit cover elsewhere in the network.