Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has tabled a series of Written Questions in the Scottish Parliament in pursuit of what he calls a “new approach” to the procurement of ferries.
Commenting on the questions, Mr Russell said:
“The events of recent months and in particular the chaos on the Islay and Colonsay routes in April and the unacceptably frequent cancellations recently of the Mull, Arran and Campbeltown services have suggested to many that a new approach to ferry procurement is needed which results in more resilient boats which can operate on all the routes, interchangeably.
“However at present Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, which procures the ferries used by Cal Mac, intends to go on building ever bigger and ever more sophisticated vessels primarily designed for specific crossings. That needs to change.
“When such vessels are ordered there then has to be very substantial modification of existing pier and harbour infrastructure to accommodate them, with huge disruption and cost over a long period of time.
SNP MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has been in touch with the Scottish Government Transport Minister, Derek MacKay, and with Cal Mac, to demand action to resolve the present problems that are affecting the Islay and Colonsay ferry routes.
A technical difficulty has led to the service being operated by only a single boat. With no solution in sight there is now an amended and reduced timetable in operation and islanders have been warned that this may continue into next week as well.
in addition the boat to Colonsay was cancelled on Friday – the first day of the Eater Holiday weekend – for weather reasons which are utterly inexplicable to the community on the island. This was the only cancellation on the network on Friday.
Mr Russell said ; “I have been contacted by a number of very angry people on Islay and on Colonsay. Local Businesses are just getting underway and the week after Easter when schools are still on holiday is a crucial time for them. Now there is no certainty about when travellers can get to their destination or get back and that has lead to a large number of cancelled bookings.
Local people are also left in considerable doubt about essential travel including travel to medical and other appointments on the mainland and goods are being delayed both in bound and out bound.
Cal Mac has not responded to complaints in anything like a sensitive or sensible manner and emails about the situation are going unanswered.
I have asked the Transport Minister to get involved as soon as possible and help sort out what is unacceptable failure by Cal Mac.”