Comhairle is not convinced about priority ferry travel idea for islanders

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New ferries to combat capacity issues on Western Isles’ routes to the mainland are a long way off with no sign of further investment to build vessels from Government on the horizon.

The problems of travel to and from the islands is getting to be an ever-more critical problem, recently the Gazette reported on islanders who wished to travel by ferry being squeezed out due to the advance bookings of visitors who are securing space on board far ahead of their departure date.

Yet, solutions to this growing problem have yet to be pinned down.

There have been calls for extra capacity on the Island routes, but that will take time, this week the Gazette floated the idea that a proportion of spaces on board each sailing could be ring-fenced for use by island residents only.

The thinking behind this is it would offer a breathing space to help minismise travel disruption for islanders until the bigger capacity issues can be resolved.

However not everyone is convinced this is a workable idea.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are not convinced of its practical application.

A spokesman for the Council said: “Whilst there may be some sympathy with the aim of reserving ferry places for Islanders, it is difficult to see how it would work in practice.

“And if places were not taken by Islanders other potential travellers to the Islands may not get a place.”

The spokesman also pointed out that in emergency situations Calmac had proved helpful in accommodating those who need to travel.

What is clear is action to balance the demands of visitors and Islanders needs to be taken sooner rather than later to allow our ‘lifeline’ ferry links to the mainland to live up to their title.

In the meantime Calmac can only offer Island residents the thin advice that they should book travel “as far in advance as possible”.