Ferry operator CalMac has published details of its services from Stornoway when the Ullapool linkspan is closed to vehicle traffic from the end of February 2015 due to replacement work .
While this work is underway, the ferry will be unable to take vehicle traffic for a planned period of approximately six weeks, and alternative ferry services are being put in place to take vehicle traffic to Uig in Skye. A passenger-only service will continue to operate between Stornoway and Ullapool.
Initial site preparation ahead of the work has already begun but does not affect the current service. It is currently planned that the linkspan will close on February 22 and re-open on April 7. Further updates will follow as the programme and works progress.
Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac said: “I’m delighted this work is being carried out as it is an essential investment in ensuring Ullapool can continue to provide a safe and reliable docking facility for our ferries for many years to come, providing our customers with long term peace of mind about the future of the port.”
“We realise however that for a limited time this will cause significant inconvenience for our customers and we will be speaking to them in detail about what the best options for travel for them during these improvement works.”
“It has proved to be a significant logistical challenge, especially matching the different vessels to different tides to find a way of continuing to provide a service from Stornoway, but we believe we have achieved a good solution that will ensure the continued flow of traffic to and from the Western Isles for the duration of the works.
Kevin Peach, Harbourmaster at the Ullapool Harbour Trust said: “This work is unavoidable if we are to continue to provide a reliable and efficient service to the Western Isles in the future. We will do all we can to minimise disruption for our customers and get this improvement work completed as quickly as possible and apologise in advance for the inevitable inconvenience to the travelling public and local residents.”
The key parts of CalMac plans are:
To operate a passenger-only service between Ullapool-Stornoway with the MV Loch Seaforth
To operate a vehicle and passenger service between Stornoway and Uig with the MV Isle of Lewis
To operate a freight service between Stornoway and Uig with chartered freight vessel, MV Clipper Ranger
Services on the Uig triangle with MV Finlaggan and MV Hebrides will be unaffected.
Responding to the service announcement Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure,Councillor John Mackay, said: “It is disappointing that these arrangements were not discussed with the Western Isles community as they will have a direct effect on both the travelling public and the business community.
There are other options for dealing with the disruption caused by the necessary works at Ullapool which the Comhairle should have had opportunity to discuss with Cal-Mac.
On most days there appears to be only one return trip for vehicles between Stornoway and Uig and this is bound to have an impact on how goods are delivered to and from the islands.
The people of these Islands are being treated discourteously by Cal-Mac who for a six week period will be reducing services and causing major disruption with no consultation or consideration of alternative arrangements. It is not acceptable for a publicly owned company to behave in this manner.
I would call on Cal-Mac to meet with the Comhairle as a matter of urgency.”