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      General News

Stornoway's ferry users got the opportunity to express their opinions on the upcoming Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service 3 (CHFS3) contract, as well as the ferry system in general, at a drop-in community engagement session held by Transport Scotland's new CHFS3 Ferries Directorate team. 

The session, held at An Lanntair on the evening of Wednesday November 22, saw members of the public meet five of the 12 new CHFS3 team: Gordon Macleod, Claire Jones, Lauren Gibb, Siân Morris, and Liz Jack.

Their arrival in Stornoway followed similar meetings in Mull and Skye, whilst a second group from the team spoke to communities in Arran and Islay.

Questions were asked at the An Lanntair meeting about the CHFS3 contract, including whether Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop's stated preference for a direct award to Caledonian MacBrayne meant the contract was a done deal despite the need for a due diligence process. Clarification on the roles of CalMac, CMal, Transport Scotland, and the Scottish Government was also asked multiple times.

Others used the session as a way to share their opinions on the broader ferry service.    

One attendee said: "When they provide a service, it is generally a very good service. But they need the capacity - when there is a breakdown, you get shafted. And the connectivity has to be better. If the ferry is cancelled, can you take Loganair? Probably not."

Another said: "I'll be honest, I have never been seriously impacted, but my friend in Uist was. If her ferry was cancelled, she would have to go round to Lochmaddy. It has been terrible down there."

Mr Macleod, who serves as Head of Contract Development in the CHFS3 team, said the current meetings were the 'initial traunch' of increased public engagement, and that hearing criticism from communities was part of improving the service.

"The biggest theme has been onward connectivity. We recognise the trip is not always port to port - sometimes it is to Glasgow, or Edinburgh. The alignment has to be better," he said.

"We have also heard a lot about the booking system, so are taking that onboard. The other one is resilience, so there is putting in performance metrics that better reflect passenger experience."

Mr Macleod added he believes the six new vessels that are due to arrive within the next years - two being built at Ferguson Shipyard, and four arriving from Turkey - will help reduce cancellations, especially if a way to keep reserve vessels was achieved. He also hoped the public engagement would improve, with further community engagement and public consultations due to take place next month.

"It's not too late. We will try to do our very best, and this is the first consultation. If there are things that people request we can look into it, and we will be back in Lewis and Harris." 

Anyone who was unable to attend the drop-in event can send feedback to the CHFS3 team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Information and updates on the contract, as well as the storyboard presentation used at the community engagement events, can be found at transport.gov.scot/chfs3.