Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the announcement from Calmac that is it to appoint a director of community and stakeholder engagement. This follows the company making public its plans for the operation of the west coast ferry services for the next eight years earlier this week.

Calmac's plans also involve the creation of a Communities Board, to better involve communities in strategic matters affecting them, and the appointment of a transport integration manager to work with other providers on timetable planning, disruption management, and improving public transport connections and quality of customer information.

The eight year contract was awarded to Calmac by the Scottish Government in May this year and is due to begin on 1st October 2016.

Alasdair Allan commented: "The Scottish Government has made sustained and substantial investment in our ferry network over the past 9 years. We now have dedicated vessels for both Barra and South Uist, a new vessel for the Uig triangle has been commissioned, the deployment of the purpose built Loch Seaforth on the Stornoway-Ullapool route and, of course, RET has been rolled out across the whole of the west coast, making journeys more affordable for islanders and tourists alike.

"However, a complaint I often hear from different groups is a feeling that they are not being listened to or that their concerns are not being taken on board by Calmac. Community groups should have a distinct role to play in the formation of transport strategy and I now look forward to seeing greater engagement between them and the company. Timetable difficulties are another source of frustration. Moves towards better co-ordination of services are also to be greatly welcomed, especially for people who often have to rely on three separate companies to get them to their final destination.

"The new contract contains a number of welcome innovations and I hope to hear more about their plans when I meet with the company later this month."

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