Harris and Barra ‘2030’ ferry fears

Getting ready to depart Leverburgh.Getting ready to depart Leverburgh.
Getting ready to depart Leverburgh.
​Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling for the replacement of two vital island ferries to be brought forward in response to repeated disruption.

The vessels which serve the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra are not due to be replaced until after 2030 and have been plagued with breakdowns.

Comhairle transportation committee chair, Uisdean Robertson, said that he has “a full mail-bag” of concerns about the reliability of the two routes.

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CMAL has a small vessel replacement programme with the first phase of seven due to go out to tender. However, none of these are for Outer Isles routes.

Councillor Robertson said: “The first phase is due to be completed by 2028 and they would then move onto the second phase of three vessels for the Sound of Barra, Sound of Harris and Mallaig-Armadale.

“That means we are looking beyond 2030 and I do not think anyone believes that what we have at present is going to last until then”

On the Sound of Harris, there are only two vessels which can operate the route – the Loch Portain and Loch Bhrusda -which by 2030 will be respectively 27 and 34 years old. The Loch Alainn which runs between Barra and Eriskay is 26 years old and was repeatedly out of action during the summer.

Councillor Robertson said: “These are very busy routes and many businesses depend on them. There is real concern if there is no prospect of replacements until the other side of 2030”.