Gazette Letters - Ferry wake up call has another side to it

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Reading the front page headline ‘ferry wake up call’ in last week’s Gazette (July 4th), made for alarming, almost unbelievable reading concerning Calmac’s Islands’ ferry operations.

One senior, retiring Calmac employee whistle blower, in his parting letter to all the ferry company’s internal contacts, tells of all his years of dissatisfaction with how the ferry network is run.

I wonder why he left it till now when something could have been done about the situation, though he definitely has an unbelievable case now to tell.

Just when we thought things are going very well on the Ullapool-Stornoway service we have this uncertainty hanging over Calmac operations.

The e-mail sender tells us about gangways that do not fit ships and ships that do not fit piers.

Not mentioning at least one possible cause, at time ferry breakdowns and other ships having to be employed in an emergency.

These ships do an enormous amount of work, coming and going but the state of inadequate piers and infrastructure did not cause service breakdown altogether.

Inadequate marshalling areas and terminal facilities, out of date infrastructure, no departure lounges/waiting areas equivalent to the ships’ capacity and so on.

Something does not add up here and all I can think of is that those deprived services in some areas are not paying so well and to spend more money to improve the infrastructure and new piers were not economically viable.

He comes to what is behind a lot of his dissatisfaction and he uses all of that telling us the services have not changed in 32 years, even though the people put up with what is in it up to now, which we did not hear anything about but that it kept him in a job along with the others.

His main point is that it is nearly impossible for a local to get a vehicle on any of our crossings unless they book months in advance, talking of family connections.

At least he knows you need to book a vehicle and when. It is very hard for me to believe this.

Locals like all ferry travellers have the same chances as everybody else of getting a ferry booking but to travel as a passenger there is always space anytime, no problem there.

What gives Islanders that special privilege, advantage or favour, that they expect a place for a vehicle on a ferry whenever it suits them?

Is it just because they use the words ‘lifeline services’ to enforce things?

More capacity he says is not the solution but more space is. Leave the vehicle and travelling arrangements as they are on the Stornoway/Skye Harris route, not to complicate the service, the other islanders need to speak up for themselves. Motorhomes do clog up island roads and park anywhere, they don’t bring a lot of economic advantage to island communities, they definitely need to pay more to cut down the numbers on the ferries.

A lot of what he says has nothing to do with lifeline services. Lifeline services to me means getting supermarket lorries onto the ferry and off again, they are contracted to Calmac, if they are to be on the ferry, guaranteeing space on board.

I do not believe the people would starve if the ferry did not carry those lorries. I have not heard up to now, or ever, of reports of Island people starving due to inadequate ferry lifeline services.

There is always the planes to carry lifeline goods and helicopter ambulance services.

This wake up call has another side to it, that it should make ferry travellers and Lewis inhabitants more appreciative of the magnificent service they have in the Ullapool to Stornoway run and Skye to Harris/Lochmaddy service.

Their modern day Loch Seaforth and Hebrides ferry, their new ferry terminals and piers at Stornoway/Ullapool and special built piers also at Tarbert.

The people of Lewis so far have nothing to complain about, they seem favoured by Calmac for what they have compared to what they have in other places, like in Arran/Ardrossan.

Donald Murray

Inverness