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      General News

There are no ferries to or from Tarbert or Lochmaddy today (Monday 19 February), as CalMac continues to struggle filling service gaps caused by vessel upgrade delays.

Harris passengers must wait until Friday (23 February) for a possible return to having any ferry service at all and a groaning network is leaving Uist and Barra with patchy services and cancellations for the next week, as freight and passenger backlogs build up.

A late return by MV Clansman from her annual overhaul and the departure of loan vessel MV Alfred for her annual upgrade has put CalMac in the position of trying to link islands with limited adequate vessels.

In an update to local representatives, a CalMac spokesperson wrote: “I am sorry to say that (MV Clansman) has been further delayed and is now not expected to return to service until Friday 23 February.

“This will mean an extension to the current plans with MV Hebridean Isles solely serving Uist and MV Isle of Mull being redeployed to serve Barra.”

MV Hebridean Isles was operating a combined Castlebay and Lochboisdale service already, and today is weather-affected, meaning a longer passage time from Oban to Castlebay via Hyskeir.

From tomorrow MV Isle of Mull is picking up the Barra service but will not go via Lochboisdale, cancelling services on that route on Wednesday and Thursday.

CalMac tweeted this morning that services between Uig and Lochmaddy are ‘currently being reviewed’ for the 20-22 February period, with an update to be provided as soon as possible.

And although CalMac’s service planners had earlier hinted at ‘possible services’ from Uig to Tarbert, today they have written to local councillors saying: “I am sorry to inform you that this will not be possible due to a significant backlog of traffic for the Lochboisdale and Lochmaddy routes that we will not be able to clear with just one return sailing per day.

“Therefore, it is our intention to operate to return sailings from Lochboisdale to Uig which rules out a service to Tarbert.

“I am very sorry for the continued disruption and service cancellations that the Harris communities are suffering at this time.

“Please be assured that our port teams will be in contact with all affected customers to offer them alternative space via Stornoway and Ullapool.

“Normal service on this route is expected to resume with MV Clansman on Friday 23 February.”

Intending travellers from Tarbert to the mainland are asked to travel via Stornoway and Ullapool

The news compounds an already chaotic weekend as planned mid-term breaks for families were scuppered by service cuts.

Among the events forced to cancellation by reduced services was a pre-season friendly shinty cup match between Skye Camanachd and Lewis Camanachd.

The inter-island game’s been played nine times since 2010, returning last year after the inevitable Covid disruption.

The Lewis side were ‘very much looking forward’ to the match in Portree, but on Friday announced: “Sadly our fixture for the John ‘Kaid’ Maclean Cup against Skye Camanachd has been cancelled due to Caledonian MacBrayne cancelling the Tarbert-Uig ferry this Saturday.

“This is a big disappointment as games between the two Hebridean clubs are always memorable occasions.

“With the Tarbert to Uig ferry unavailable, we are unable to travel to Portree and back on the same day and the game cannot go ahead.”

The pictures shows MV Isle of Mull, due to pick up the Castlebay Oban run this week (Ships of CalMac).