Additional ferry sailings will operate between Stornoway and Ullapool over the summer months to provide a boost to island tourism, Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay has announced.
An extra return crossing has been added to the Friday and Saturday timetables and will operate for 10 full weekends from Friday 26th June 2015 until Saturday 29th August 2015.
Sailings will depart from Stornoway at 10:30 and Ullapool at 14:30 on both days.
The additional sailings will be carried out by the MV Isle of Lewis, in support of the main vessel on the route the MV Loch Seaforth.
Mr Mackay said: “By convening the Taskforce we have been able to get the Stornoway-Ullapool Ferry Project back on track, but it has also given me the opportunity to speak directly to local communities and stakeholders.
“I have listened to representatives of the local tourism industry, who have called for additional capacity on the route over the summer months as the MV Loch Seaforth beds into its role as the main vessel on the route.
“I am confident the new vessel will be a real boost to regular ferry users, tourists and businesses, but these extra sailings will give the community an extra level of certainty over the busy summer months.
“Looking to the future, I look forward to the MV Loch Seaforth and the upgraded harbours at Stornoway and Ullapool bringing real benefits to the communities they serve.”
Drew Collier, CalMac Operations Director, said:
“We welcome the Minister’s approval for these extra sailings which were agreed by members of the taskforce which is made up of key local representatives.
“The Stornoway-Ullapool route now has significant additional capacity at the height of the season and we expect the timings of the additional sailings to be popular with both visitors and the local community.”
Councillor John Mackay, Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said:
“The Comhairle and other stakeholders met with CalMac recently and put the case for an additional two sailings with the preferred option being Fridays and Saturdays – the times of peak demand. The Comhairle is pleased that the Minister has agreed to this proposal which will be of benefit to the tourism industry and the travelling public during the summer season. This is a very positive step forward and I hope the additional sailings are well used for the full 10 week period and demonstrate the viability of maintaining services.”
Chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism Community Interest Company, Ian Fordham added:
“Outer Hebrides Tourism is delighted the Minister has listened to our concerns over capacity on the Stornoway – Ullapool route, and very pleased he has committed to additional runs in the peak period. The extra services are timed to meet the needs of visitors travelling to and from the Outer Hebrides, and we have no doubt that they will prove highly popular.
“Tourism is worth £53 million to the local economy, sustaining around 1000 businesses across the island chain. The additional visitors brought by these services could add at least £1 million of spend in the local economy, further helping the Outer Hebrides reach its target to grow the visitor economy by 25% by 2020.”