Ian Blackford "disappointed"


Skye MP Ian Blackford and his MSP counterpart Kate Forbes are amongst the first to express their "disappointment" at Calmac's 2017 plans for the Mallaig - Armadale service.

Meanwhile Sleat Transport Forum have also made clear their dissatisfaction and their views on the matter can be seen below.

Mr Blackford said: "I have jointly written to Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf expressing disappointment that newly introduced Caledonian MacBrayne Summer timetable has once again failed to properly serve the Mallaig – Armadale route and to call for a meeting with him to discuss options.

"We told Yousaf  we were both disappointed to hear that the release of the summer ferry timetable by Caledonian MacBrayne leaves us again in the situation that the Armadale-Mallaig route is going to be serviced this year by vessels designed to operate from slipways and not the link spans installed at both terminals.

Whilst we welcome the increased number of sailings and the enhanced capacity, it does not take away our concerns that its operation is hampered by an inability to operate at regular and predicted low spring and summer tides.

“As a consequence, confidence in the service is eroded; meaning that the opportunities to reap the full benefit of road equivalent tariff and increase traffic to the maximum potential is impinged upon.

“It has been demonstrably shown by the communities affected and by businesses, that the failure to operate this service using vessels which are fit for purpose has had a detrimental effect on reliability and the customer experience.

“This has been a long running saga since the decision was taken to remove the MV Coruisk from the route in the summer of 2016 and there has to be an acceptance by Caledonian MacBrayne that they must secure appropriate capacity for this route as soon as is possible.

“Although we are facing not having vessels we would consider as fit for purpose in 2017, there must be an understanding that this cannot be repeated for 2018.

“We would appreciate an early meeting with yourself in order that we can both put across our views to you and to hear your response to assist in making sure Caledonian MacBrayne can deliver a service that is fit for purpose”

Sleat Transport Forum say they are concerned and disappointed at the timetable and vessel deployment now published by CalMac Ferries Ltd for the Mallaig-Armadale service for summer 2017. This does not bode well for the season. By the Company’s own admission, there will be disruption for the first two weeks due to the unsuitability of the 'MV Loch Fyne' for the tidal conditions during that fortnight and tidal amendments to the schedule are expected on at least 79 other days throughout the summer. This will mean disruption to travel for almost 40% of the 206 sailing days during the period, and takes no account of adverse weather, unforeseen low tides and technical issues on the two deployed vessels that are respectively 26 and 28 years old. The crossings on the ‘MV Loch Fyne’ will take 45 minutes with no customer facilities.

A Forum spokesman said: “Despite representations at the highest level, the Scottish Government have not provided the means to provide a robust and reliable service on this route. The Minister for Transport and Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP, has publicly stated that the service during the summer of 2016 was ‘unacceptable’ and the Company have admitted that their service provision was far from adequate. Despite these acknowledgements of failure on their part, they are now proposing a re-run of the same ’not fit-for purpose’ service during the forthcoming season. The ‘Loch Fyne’ was commissioned for the sheltered waters of the 450m/5 minute Kyle-Kyleakin crossing in 1991 and does not meet current expectations of speed, safety, passenger comfort and reliability.

"The Forum has been seeking the return of the ‘MV Coruisk’ from Mull to the Mallaig-Armadale route for which it was specifically built. The Company now state that while extra sailings could be provided with the 'Isle of Mull' at the beginning and the end of the day this would not address demand at peak times. This is at variance with previous statements which claimed that the additional capacity was required to provide a commuter service morning and evening between Mull and Oban and these contradictory statements require to be clarified.

"It is also claimed that travel trade bookings appear positive. It is difficult to understand how the Company can make this claim when the timetable has only just been published.

"The Forum will continue to seek a lasting solution to the problems which have been created directly by the decisions of Transport Scotland and CalMac. The procurement of a dedicated vessel with sufficient capacity and able to operate the Mallaig-Armadale route year-round remains essential if the full benefits of RET are to be achieved on this, the fifth busiest summer service on the CHFS network. A downturn in tourism will lead to a loss of jobs and economic prosperity in both Sleat and Lochaber and every effort must be made to avoid this."