Economic Task Force concerned about ferry services

Concerns have been raised about the replacement of the MV Hebrides on the Lochmaddy triangular route over the Easter period.
Concerns have been raised about the replacement of the MV Hebrides on the Lochmaddy triangular route over the Easter period.

The Chairman of the Uist Economic Taskforce Working Group has expressed strong concern about the present ferry situation in Uist and the unsatisfactory approach to service provision by Calmac.

Speaking about the recent meeting of the Islands Transport Forum, Cllr MacNeil said: “It is hugely disappointing that the MV Hebrides is being replaced on the Lochmaddy triangular route over the Easter period.

“This change is totally inappropriate and will affect individuals, communities and businesses.

“The loss of carrying capacity on the route will have a significant knock-on effect to the local economy.

“Given the economic challenges presently faced by Uist it is unacceptable that these challenges are being exacerbated by Calmac and their poorly-judged approach to this lifeline route.

“From a wider perspective we are highly concerned about the prioritisation that Calmac is affording Uist.

“It appears that Calmac repeatedly de-prioritises Uist with their approach to vessel selection on Uist routes.

“Uist always seems to be at the bottom of the queue when it comes to Calmac.

“Making matters worse is that Lochboisdale has also suffered an unprecedented level of disruption over the last few months.

“We will be writing to both Calmac and the Transport Minister to make these points.

“Uist has a magnificent tourism product. We have a fantastic environment, an unrivalled cultural heritage, first class visitor attractions and a warm and welcoming approach.

“We are growing our tourism economy incrementally year-on-year.

“Calmac should be working with us to help grow that market and not be finding ways to inhibit growth, which they appear to be doing at present.”

In answer to the concerns raised, a spokesperson for Calmac said: “We understand the frustration that the communities on North Uist and Harris will be feeling at this change around and we apologise for any inconvenience it causes, however, there is no question of CalMac deprioritising Uist.

“The deployment of the MV Hebridean Isles is the only viable solution we have within the resources we currently have available to maintain reliable services to every community that depends on us.

“The propulsion system of the MV Clansman is currently under repair in Denmark which means we are one major vessel down. This has a knock on effect across the fleet which we have to manage taking account of the needs of everyone across the network equally.”