Sleat Transport Forum are demanding an urgent meeting with Scotland’s new Minister for Transport and Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP on the continuing “shambles” surrounding the Mallaig/Armadale ferry service
The Forum now want to bring together the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and CalMac to resolve the continuing issues which they say are now only effecting the ferry company’s own customers but the economic prosperity of the communities that are dependent on this popular and profitable west coast ferry service.
However, in a separate development, Calmac Managing Director, Martin Dorchester, has been in touch with Sleat Community Council following contact from a local resident and claims that after close monitoring of the route amendments have been made to the timetable which will increase reliability.
He said: “We fully understand the frustration being felt locally with the teething issues we have had with this new timetable.
“Since the introduction of the new timetable, car traffic has increased on this route by nearly 22% or around 1500 extra cars arriving on the Sleat peninsula via Armadale. Passengers numbers are also up by 11% over the same period and the route continues to bring more people to the island than it has ever done before.
However, we realise that changes to the service do require some getting used to and we are continuing to monitor the situation closely. We will consider making further changes to improve reliability if we think they are required.”
Meanwhile the Transport Forum, while making it clear that they welcomed Calmac’s success in retaining its ferry services and while wanting to continue working with the company, still believe urgent action is needed.
Rob Ware, Sleat Transport Forum’s Secretary, said: “The disruption that continues on the route since 25th March is a matter of immediate and great concern. The deployment of vessels not fit for purpose, known restrictions due to tidal conditions, and a downgraded customer experience has resulted in a ferry service that is best described as a ‘shambles’.
“The consequence of this is now the publication of an ‘emergency’ timetable of revised services effective from 24th May until 31st August where more than 50 operating days out of 99 are planned to have changes to times and scheduled vessels. This is causing a major loss of confidence in the route and at times a reduction in available vehicle capacity. Coach travel has been severely affected by the disruption and uncertainty of service.”
“Despite extensive discussions with the Company to seek an urgent resolution to the chaos on the route, which included a Public Meeting on 4th May chaired by Ian Blackford MP, and a face to face meeting with the Managing Director and Operations Director on 15th May, no serious alternative plan has yet been presented by the company.”
The Forum say they are aware that there have been more than 100 cancellations of scheduled vessel sectors on the Mallaig-Armadale route since 25th March. From the Company’s published statistics online there was a total of 904 scheduled sailings in April and May last year with just 14 service cancellations for that 61-day period.
This, they say, is clear evidence that the deployment of vessels not fit for purpose has been the principal reason for the disruption caused by tidal conditions and is widely viewed in the local communities as a ‘disgrace’.
An on-line petition, which was highlighted by The Skye Times, calling for the immediate return of the ‘MV Coruisk’ now has 1,658 signatures further emphasising the public concern for the service currently being operated by CalMac