Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) has confirmed it intends making no further changes to the Mallaig-Armadale service this summer but has agreed, after listening to community concerns, that it will review vessel deployment for summer 2017 in consultation with affected communities.
CalMac Managing Director Martin Dorchester said the timetable changes made in light of reliability issues on the Mallaig-Armadale service had noticeably improved performance on the route.
He said: “We regret that our plans for the Mallaig-Armadale route have fallen short of some expectations but I would stress that every change to our summer timetable was made after consultation with the local communities and each change was made in good faith with the sole intention of enhancing ferry services and addressing local concerns, some long-standing, about services in their area. We should also not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of these changes have been warmly welcomed by those local communities.
“For the first two months of the Mallaig-Armadale summer service passenger numbers have risen by 9.9% and vehicles by 20%, or more than 2600 extra cars since the start of the summer travelling to the island on that route.
This route continues to carry more passengers and more traffic to Skye than it has ever done in the past. While we accept there were issues, the changes we have made to the timetable have appeared to address a number of these, but we will of course continue to monitor performance on the route.
“We have also been mindful that with vehicle carryings up around 40% on the Oban-Craignure route the additional capacity provided by the MV Coruisk has had a positive impact on the communities of Mull and Iona.
“Having thoroughly explored all the options regarding these two routes and the implications for the rest of the network of a vessel reshuffle part way through the summer season, we have reached the conclusion that the arrangements we currently have in place are the best possible to meet many differing demands with the resources we have.”
CalMac and Scottish Ministers are fully committed to the route and CalMac has pledged to continue to work with and support Sleat for the remainder of 2016, the latest initiative being the revised timetable.
Mr Dorchester added: “Concerns to date have focused on the MV Coruisk and vessel deployment in general , but the port and harbour infrastructure we have to use is also a major limiting factor across our network when it comes to planning and operating services and we will be speaking to the relevant authorities, in this case Mallaig Harbour Authority, Argyll and Bute Council and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd ( CMAL) to seek their support in getting the investment in infrastructure required to address some of these issues.
“With the tender now under our belt we will shortly be turning our attention to summer 2017 services and will be working with all communities on what these might look like. We are particularly keen to capitalise on the significant growth achieved since the full roll out of RET fares to see how we can continue to support that for the benefit of all the communities we support.”