A taskforce will be convened to oversee the completion of infrastructure works and the deployment of MV Loch Seaforth on the Stornoway-Ullapool route, Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay has announced.
It will be made up of all the key partners involved in the project, including Transport Scotland, Stornoway Port Authority, Ullapool Harbour Trust, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), Calmac Ferries Ltd and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Mr Mackay will chair the first meeting of the taskforce next week, with subsequent meetings led by officials from Transport Scotland.
Mr Mackay said: “I share in the frustration of the local communities who’ve been affected by the delays to infrastructure works and the deployment of the MV Loch Seaforth on the Stornoway-Ullapool route.
“The Scottish Government is investing £42 million in the MV Loch Seaforth, £17 million in the infrastructure works at Ullapool Harbour and £9.6 million in the infrastructure works at Stornoway Harbour. Once complete, these facilities will provide real improvements for commuters and the communities served. Like everyone else involved in this project, I want to see the new vessel operating as soon as possible.
“I have called for the formation of this taskforce so we can put the delays behind us and bring the focus back to delivering a project that promises to be a significant upgrade for ferry users.
“The first priority will be to get the harbour works at Stornoway completed at the earliest opportunity.
“I will chair the first meeting myself, with Transport Scotland officials leading subsequent meetings. This is not about apportioning blame, but pulling all parties together to see this project through to its finish.
“I must also be clear that this taskforce will focus solely on the delivery of the project, and will not be directly involved with other operational issues for which individual taskforce members take the lead responsibility.
“We must not lose sight of the end goal here – improved harbour facilities in Stornoway and Ullapool and a new state-of-the-art ferry for both communities. I look forward to seeing the MV Loch Seaforth operating on this route and bringing an improved service to ferry users.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Convener, Cllr Norman A MacDonald, said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar welcomes the Minister’s active involvement in concluding this phase of investment and will use the opportunity to contribute to the successful implementation of the Stornoway to Ullapool improvements.”