Senior representatives of CalMac, including Managing Director Martin Dorchester and Chairman David McGibbon have been in Stornoway this week, to meet a variety of community representatives and discuss the proposed deployment of the MV Loch Seaforth and other issues associated with the Stornoway-Ullapool service.
The proposals under discussion include:
· Formally introducing the MV Loch Seaforth into service at the end of the enhanced Summer service on Saturday, September 8, although she is expected to undertake some scheduled sailings ahead of that as part of her preparation for coming into service.
· Retaining the MV Isle of Lewis, fully crewed and on standby, in the event of unforeseen technical issues with the MV Loch Seaforth.
The proposed timetable will mirror that currently in place ie two day return sailings and one overnight return sailing, thereby ensuring that current levels of service are maintained throughout the Summer of 2013 and Winter 1014/15.
Further discussion will be required for service levels for Summer 2015, but there are a number of options available including additional late Saturday sailings, a second Sunday service, and, if demand can be demonstrated, the retention of the MV Isle of Lewis to provide additional capacity.
Martin Dorchester said: “The arrival of the MV Loch Seaforth is good news and we look forward to receiving her from CMAL in due course. The introduction of any new vessel brings with it some challenges and our customers can be assured we will do everything we can to make the transition as smooth as possible. The associated harbour works are not without their challenges too, but we know that the harbour authorities, CMAL and Transport Scotland, who are responsible for these, recognise the importance of minimising disruption and can rely on us to play our part in that.”
He added: “We are aware that some concern has been expressed about capacity constraints on the service, but our own audited figures show that the pinch points are focused on peak sailings at the height of the season, and that there is ample capacity at other times. In addition the new ship is larger and there is scope for switching some traffic to the overnight sailings, so we are confident that we can cope with the expected demand.”