ARRAN FERRY TALES OF FRUSTRATION AND UPSET

Oban 2 Calmac ferries pass close together in Oban Bay.

Calmac ferries which have been causing passenger frustration on the Arran route.

By Bill Heaney

Ferry tales of frustration and woe were poured out in the Holyrood parliament on Thursday by Kenneth Gibson, the SNP member for Cunninghame North.

Mr Gibson told First Minister Nicola Sturgeon:Arran, in my constituency, has, like much of Scotland, been buffeted by storms in recent weeks, which has led to numerous unavoidable cancellations of the island’s lifeline ferry service.

“However, what has caused upset, anger and frustration to boil up among islanders are technical problems that have hugely worsened an already difficult situation.”

He said that in the past week alone, the 27-year-old MV Caledonian Isles has had problems with its bow doors, mezzanine decks and a mooring winch gearbox.

“So many cancellations mean that islanders cannot get to hospital for chemotherapy and elective operations, and hotels and tourist businesses are losing custom—some may go out of business. Six weeks of further disruption is expected, including over Easter, he added.

And that was before the seriousness of coronavirus had been communicated to the country.

Mr Gibson said: “Given the on-going crisis, what assurances can the First Minister give that additional ferry cover will be provided to Arran throughout that period and beyond? When will a long-term, often-promised, comprehensive ferry replacement programme to renew a rapidly ageing fleet be put in place?”

Nicola Sturgeon told her fellow Ayrshire MSP: “It is clearly a matter of great regret that passengers using the key Ardrossan to Brodick service are facing disruption, and I absolutely understand the frustration.

“Although the vessel on the route—MV Caledonian Isles—continues in service, it does so with operating restrictions. The master who assessed the situation introduced a wind speed limit restriction.

“Caledonian MacBrayne has sourced a supplier with the replacement parts in stock, which will minimise the timeframe for repairs to approximately seven days. In response to the disruption, CalMac is providing additional sailings on another route.

“Transport Scotland is currently working with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd and CalMac to develop investment programmes for small and major vessels, with the aim of increased fleet standardisation, taking account of the many varied routes that CalMac serves.”

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