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      Barra & Vatersay News

The news that the MV Isle of Lewis will remain on the Oban-Castlebay route for the summer season has been welcomed in Barra .

However, there remains concern that this could be shortlived if the ferry is stationed further north after planned berthing trials on the Little Minches route.

News that the MV Isle of Lewis has been granted a reprieve on the Castlebay link, Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “There has been a lot of fear in the community about losing the MV Isle of Lewis on the Oban – Castlebay route, which had the potential to impact local people and visitor numbers throughout the Hebridean chain. Capacity to the islands is important for the tourist season in the coming summer.

“Given that this is the longest CalMac route, combined with tourist capacity, it was vital that the Isle of Lewis stayed on the Hebridean run.”

But while CalMac announced its ferry reshuffling plans yesterday (Tuesday, March 5), leaving the MV Isle of Lewis and MV Hebrides on their current routes, the Little Minches berthing trials could be a game changer.

If the MV Isle of Lewis can dock at Lochmaddy, Tarbert, and Uig at all tide states, a repositioning looks almost certain. But CalMac could still introduce a less desirable tidal timetable.

Currently, the MV Isle of Lewis is still in Aberdeen, undergoing final work and inspections. A return to the islands is on the cards in the coming days, with the ferry carrying out the berthing trials on return to station in Barra.

Meanwhile, the 31-year-old MV Caledonian Isles is out of action for at least another four months due to structural issues. This presents a major headache for CalMac regarding how to reinstate the Ardrossan-Arran route.

Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: “Losing one of the larger vessels in our network during peak season has had a knock-on effect on the wider network, and unfortunately some disruption is unavoidable.

“Given our fleet was already stretched to the absolute limit, and without any spare vessels available, it is inevitable the loss of one of our larger vessels during the peak season will cause some disruption across the wider network.”