Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has expressed its disappointment and frustration at the recent announcement that the new ferry which is to be allocated on the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert route will not now be entering service until at least summer 2020.
The Comhairle is reacting to the recent announcement by Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, that the two new vessels currently being built by Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd, the MV Glen Sannox and Vessel 802, are now scheduled for delivery during summer 2019 and spring 2020 respectively.
Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said: “We were of course delighted to hear in October 2014 of the Scottish Government’s intentions to build two new vessels, one of which was to be allocated on the routes to Harris and North Uist.
“At that time, the delivery of the vessel was scheduled for early 2018 and since then representatives from the Comhairle have worked productively with colleagues from Transport Scotland, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) and CalMac Ferries Ltd to inform the design of the vessel and the scope, design and procurement of infrastructure improvements required at the Comhairle’s pier facilities at Lochmaddy to accommodate her.
“There has been much speculation around timescales recently and whilst we recognise the benefits the building of the two new vessels on the Clyde will bring to the economy of that area and welcome that a handover date has now been confirmed by the responsible Cabinet Secretary, we are disappointed that there will a delay of now well over two years to the final availability.
“This is a significant and critical issue for the islands in that the continuing lack of capacity during the peak summer period will mean continuing constraints to the growth of important business sectors in the islands such as tourism and aquaculture.
“We urge the Government and CMAL to ensure that, going forward, sufficient resources are targeted to the build projects so that there is no further risk to the handover and in-service dates.”