Stornoway’s passenger access system, which provides a safe route for foot passengers boarding MV Loch Seaforth, may never be repaired, it has emerged.
The glass-covered extending walkway collapsed in December 2022, when a bearing gave way and the braking system designed to prevent the bridge from falling was also found to be broken.
Now the covered walkway designed to link seamlessly with the Loch Seaforth’s side-facing passenger door is resting, useless, on the concrete of the pier.
For almost four months foot passengers have boarded and disembarked the ferry via the car deck – a long, exposed walk over a linkspan designed for wheeled traffic, not for pedestrians.
The issue is not CalMac’s responsibility, as the port infrastructure is owned and managed by Stornoway Port Authority (SPA).
But SPA is reportedly engaged in a tussle with Spanish engineering company Adelte, who installed two systems in Stornoway and Ullapool in 2014, and who have responsibility for their repair and maintenance.
In December a spokesperson for the SPA said: "We regret that the passenger access system has developed a fault and had to be removed from service.
“We have the part in stock, but the repair must be certified by an engineer from the manufacturers.”
This week, however, it’s reported that Adelte, who install and maintain boarding systems worldwide, at seaports and airports from Quebec to Kobe, are unable or unwilling to come and work on Stornoway’s system.
At the time of installation, Adelte said the walkway system was designed ‘to facilitate smooth, safe and secure operations,’ and that the boarding bridge had the ability to serve at dock level, absorb big tidal variations and operate with very strong service winds.
Part of Adelte’s installation commitment is an undertaking to ‘take care of every phase in the life cycle of its products,’ from research and development, through installation, training, maintenance and upgrades, for a 30-year lifespan.
It is less than 10 years since the passenger bridge at Stornoway was installed, and it is not only unserviceable but, according to one local commentator, obstructing any possible alternative system because of the position in which it has fallen.
CalMac staff are picking up the slack as passengers struggle to board the ferry, helping elderly and disabled people to negotiate an entrance which can be steep at various tide stages, on a surface which is greasy and which has trip-hazard ridges and bumps to navigate.
A CalMac port operative told welovestornoway.com yesterday (Wednesday 8 March): “It’s a huge inconvenience, especially for people who need assistance.
“We assist as best we can, but it is far from an ideal situation and very difficult to get people in easily and safely.
“The situation is exceptionally difficult and we know that this is not the fault of SPA, who are at the mercy of the manufacturers.
“Fortunately at the moment we are not dealing with huge numbers of foot passengers, but we are hurtling towards Easter and the passenger numbers are really going to increase from then on.”
Stornoway Port Authority and the boarding company Adelte have been approached for comment.
The pictures show the part of the passenger access system which is now broken, at installation in 2014 (Adelte) and the current arrangements for foot passengers embarking the ferry (Fred Silver).