‘Tweaks’ to ferry services following Easter demand

The MV Hebrides has been redeployed to the Uig Triangle from today (Tuesday).
The MV Hebrides has been redeployed to the Uig Triangle from today (Tuesday).

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, has raised the problems which has affected ferry users in North Uist and Harris during the Easter period with both Calmac and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.

The lastest issue throwing travelling arrangements to and from the Isles into chaos is the missing MV Clansman which is currently in dry dock for repairs.

As a result Calmac were forced to conduct a shuffling exercise with vessels being deployed from one route to another in order to try and meet the demand during the busy holiday period.

Initially the MV Hebridean Isles was deployed to the ‘Uig Triangle’ (Tarbert, Skye and Lochmaddy) but as its capacity is less than the usual vessel to ply this route, it could not cope with the demands of passengers at this time of year, causing outrage amongst local businesses set to welcome the first influx of the tourist season.

One local business owner said of the issue: “Their redeployment of vessels is nothing short of atrocious. My business has lost thousands directly linked to Calmac’s woefull decision.”

MSP Alasdair Allan said: “The crew of MV Hebridean Isles put in a huge effort trying to cope, for which they deserve thanks, and there have also been some extra sailings by the Lochboisdale ferry to try to pick up the strain for people in Uist.

“However, it was clear that the vessel was struggling to cope with the demand. I contacted both Calmac and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to outline these problems, explaining how they have affected individual people and businesses.

“As local MSP, I have urged Calmac to take whatever measures are possible to ensure that capacity is available for people to travel to and from Lochmaddy and Tarbert adequately in the coming weeks.”

Calmac announced yesterday evening (Monday) that they had made further ‘tweaks’ to their services to try and meet passenger demand.

CalMac will be redeploying these vessels to the following routes:

· MV Hebrides will return to Uig-Tarbert/Lochmaddy tonight and will commence service today (Tuesday)

· MV Lord of the Isles will be re-deployed to Oban to carry out Oban-Coll/Tiree and Colonsay services

· MV Hebridean Isles will be re-deployed to Lochboisdale to carry out daily Lochboisdale-Oban service

However they warned that all these vessel movements are subject to weather, and that adverse conditions forecast for the coming days may well impact on their ability to redeploy with services commencing as soon as operationally possible.

A spokesman for the ferry company said: “We appreciate that this change will mean MV Lord of the Isles is not available to cover Mallaig Armadale services however, we are working through alternative small vessel options to provide some added resilience to the route. We will continue to update customers in the coming days as the situation progresses.

“We apologise for the disruption over the past few days to our North Uist and Harris customers in particular.

“With the current limited availability of vessels at our disposal we are constrained in our alternative service options, while having to balance the lifeline needs of all our communities.

“We hope this new redeployment will address most of the capacity issues experienced on the Uig Traingle services over the past few days.”

CalMac is urging passengers using these amended services to check their website for the most up to date information.

The latest situation with ferry services in the Western Isles has prompted a call from the Comhairle’s Uist and Barra Independent Councillors, alongside local business owners, for a Transport Summit to be held in order to achieve ‘high level engagement’ on the issue of ferry services and capacity to the Uists.