Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, together with Labour’s Prospective Candidate for the Islands, Alasdair Morrison, have raised concerns about the Lochboisdale-Mallaig trial being conducted during the winter months.
Calmac have said previously on this issue that this is due to a vessel only being available at this time.
Having been contacted by a number of constituents about the service, Mrs Grant discussed the situation with the land agent, Storas Uibhist, and tabled Parliamentary Questions asking how many times the service had been cancelled since the trial began in November 2013, if there were plans to extend the trial to run during summer months and how much it would cost to run a year round service.
The figures returned show a 49% cancellation rate during the first year of the trial with the figure increasing to 60% in the first two months of the second year. The MSP was also advised that there are no plans to extend the trial into summer months and that the winter pilot service will be evaluated over the full three year pilot period before decisions about the way forward are taken. Mrs Grant was advised that the SNP government has not considered the costs of running a year round service as the trial is ongoing.
Commenting on these figures, Rhoda Grant said: “While we initially welcomed the progress Labour made in pushing for a trial, it has become very clear that it is impossible to accurately evaluate the worth of the pilot, given the number of cancellations that have been experienced. People can’t depend on the service running and it will therefore be underused.
David Stewart, Shadow Minister for Transport and the Islands said a year round trial was needed to gauge an accurate level of demand.