Frustration over disrupted ferry services in Uist reached new depths this week with a local employer hinting they may consider relocating to the mainland if the situation doesn’t improve.
CalMac say cancellations and delays are solely down to extreme weather conditions but the community are concerned about the potential impact this is having on local business and tourism.
There is increasing frustration with cancelled sailings not only on the Lochboisdale/Mallaig service but also the ferry from Oban often not docking at Lochboisdale.
Alasdair Morrison, Labour candidate for the General Election said: “The seriousness of the situation is clearly not understood by those charged with running our transport network and ferry links. It gives me no pleasure to say that one major employer I met in Uist is considering relocating most of his company to the mainland.
“The consistent tales of woe are depressing and clearly people are not being listened to. They are fed up with so called consultation processes and the nonsense that is a failing winter trial on the Lochboisdale-Mallaig route.”
He added that the state of the ferry service was also impacting on tourism: “The proprietors of Lochboisdale Hotel, Calum and Karen Macaulay detailed how the shambolic ferry service is impacting on their business. They are furious that their ferry rarely berths in Lochboisdale and often fails to complete the Barra - Lochboisdale leg of the journey from Oban.”
A CalMac spokesman said: “We share everyone’s frustration that the extreme weather has impacted on the Lochboisdale-Mallaig service. The issue is solely that in certain severe weather and sea conditions, berthing in both ports can be a challenge. Where we can work round the weather we will do so but our options are limited.”
They added that the situation where the Oban ferry bypassed Lochboisdale was also due solely to adverse weather conditions.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil is also taking action and is writing to Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac to seek answers.
Commenting he said: “There is understandable mounting frustration in the community that the ferry is not calling into Lochboisdale. This has caused difficulties for travellers and also local businesses who depend on the ferry to transport goods.
“We need to know if the reason for this disruption is weather related or an issue with the vessel. If it is weather related, CalMac should take steps to amend the timetable to avoid the bad weather.”
While the UK as a whole saw the sunniest winter on record, winter in Stornoway was the 15th dullest, the 26th wettest & 58th warmest in 142yrs of records (87yrs for sun) This is according to research by Stornoway Gazette weather correspondent Dr Eddy Graham of Lews Castle College.