Contact us on 01851 705743 or

Has CalMac cost the economy of the Isle of Harris and beyond millions of £s by needlessly cutting back on the use of MV Hebrides to meet over-stringent timetabling?

That's question which Kenny MacLeod who chairs Harris Development Ltd has posed to Jenny Gilruth, transport minister in the Scottish Government. 

Mr Macleod has been seeking meeting with Jenny Gilruth over the whole issue of the shattering blows being dealt the island economy by the chaos of delays, postponements, reroutings and cancellations surrounding the ferry routes from Uig in Skye, and particularly the restrictions on using the MV Hebrides mezzanine deck to accommodate additional vehicles. 

In a recent letter he told her: "As we await a suitable time for our urgent meeting to discuss our concerns over the serious impact the decision by CalMac to reduce the capacity of the MV Hebrides, I have been going over the figures again and am absolutely horrified to discover that the reduction in use of the mezzanine deck does not even account for half the loss of traffic on this route. 

"Given that there are three sailings per day from Uig when the mezzanine deck would be available, and that it is offered on the last sailing every day that is two sailings when it was not used, equating to 36 vehicles per day, or 4392 over the 122 days of the period in question.

"The overall reduction in vehicles carried was 9885 that leaves 5493 unaccounted for (which equates to 45 per day).  I am sure you will be as concerned as we are that the overall capacity of the vessel has been reduced so much by CalMac – and for no valid reason. 

"For most of last summer we were being told that the vessel was fully booked and many of us had to go on waiting lists in the hope of cancellations, often not coming until the last 24 hrous before travel.  To now discover that CalMac had artificially reduced the capacity still further is scandalous. 

"Is this them punishing the people of Uist and Harris for challenging their decision to not make the mezzanine deck available on all sailings? 

"Or is it that they are more concerned with not being late that they are only carrying the number of vehicles that can be loaded in the turn round time allowed in the inappropriate timetable provided by Transport Scotland.

"Either of these two scenarios have the same result and that is a huge financial penalty to the economies of Harris and Uist.  For the four months in the figures for last year that is at least £8.5M.  If we allow the same for the whole of this summer season the figure rises to probably over £11 million.

"On the one hand you give CalMac a subsidy to run these lifeline services for the benefit of the island communities, whilst on the other hand you are allowing Transport Scotland to fine them for being a few minutes late according to a timetable that bears no semblance to reality. 

"When very few of the transport services in this country run exactly to time, why the fixation with having ferries run like clockwork?

"And why is it that some ferries will go late to ensure they get as many travellers as possible on board, when others reduce the number they carry so as not to be late?

"With the summer timetable having now been released and the well-documented demand for bookings, we are already seriously concerned that people will not be able to get to Harris and Uist with these artificial reductions in capacity continuing.

"We need to urgently meet to resolve this before our communities end up almost £20 million down over the two summers because of the failure of CalMac and Transport Scotland to meet their obligations to carry the maximum number of vehicles on this service."