Skye MP Ian Blackford is seeing out the old year by calling on CalMac to make significant improvements in the new one.
In a hard hitting letter to the ferry company’s chief executive, Martin Dorchester, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber made clear his – and local – dissatisfaction with the Mallaig – Armadale service.
According to Mr Blackford when the MV Coruisk was transferred to provide additional crossings to Mull from Oban, the replacement vessels were not fit for purpose and were unable to use the link span port facilities – the drawbridges that enable vehicles to embark and disembark when tides affect water levels – at either Mallaig or Armadale.
He said: “You removed from the route the one vessel that was fit for purpose and gave us ones that could not be deployed from the link spans. That was an error of judgment.
“Given that you have been aware of this situation since last spring, as a logistics and transport operator, you have had ample time to furnish the communities affected with a solution. The silence has been deafening.
“Businesses, amongst others, have to plan for the summer season and, as has been reported, bus operators are making alternative arrangements and will not use this route in 2017.
“As the operator you have a responsibility to the community, businesses and tourists visiting this area and it is also my concern that we have not fully benefitted from the opportunities that road equivalent tariff should have brought, as confidence in the service has been undermined.
“What we do know is that you have been conducting sea trials with the Loch Fyne, another vessel that is more suited to operating from slipways. If it is your intention to deploy this vessel on the Mallaig-Armadale route, this will not do.”
“We must have the service being operated for 2017 by vessels that can utilise the link spans.
“Given the regular and forecast periods of low tides you have an obligation to deploy vessels that can use the facilities provided and offer a regular and timetabled service.
“Not to provide such vessels is unacceptable to the communities of Skye and Lochaber and would fundamentally be nothing short of incompetence.”
A spokesperson for CalMac said: “The timetables and, therefore, vessels for the Mallaig-Armadale route are yet to be finalised and discussions with the minister are ongoing.”