SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has again indicated to the Scottish Government the need for there to be adequate and resilient transport links to the Isle of Harris during the period when Uig Harbour is closed.

Calmac Ferries Ltd announced a new round of consultations in April on transport arrangements during improvements to the harbour in Uig, Isle of Skye. The Uig Harbour development will include a linkspan replacement, new terminal building and dredging in preparation for new vessels.

During Highland Council scheduled works, which will now run for 24 weeks between 10th of October 2022 until 27 March 2023, the Tarbert-Uig ferry service is scheduled to cease, with traffic rerouted via Stornoway.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“I recognise the need for major works at Uig, and welcome the major funding provided by the Scottish Government. I am however seeking assurances that there will be enough capacity on the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry to cope with the period when one vessel must carry the traffic normally transported by two vessels. Many islanders have emphasised the disruption and economic damage which insufficient connectivity to the Outer Hebrides would cause to both island communities and the economy.

“Not only will the current plans see increased pressure on the Stornoway route, questions still need to be resolved about how importing vital commodities such as heating and cooking gas will be managed during this period. MV Loch Seaforth transports dangerous goods at night, but such arrangements may not be suitable for some suppliers who opt instead at the moment for the Uig triangle. It is critical that sufficient provisions are put in place to minimise such potential disruptions.

“Given that the closure will occur over the winter, I have also sought information on what contingency plans will be in place to guarantee service during disruptions to the Stornoway–Ullapool route, whether caused by technical faults or inclement weather. Until now, even when the more exposed Stornoway route is suspended, freight has had the option to travel via the slightly more sheltered Uig–Tarbert route. With this option removed, it is not clear what the backup plan will look like. Both Lewis and Harris, with a combined population of over 20,000 people, will depend entirely on a single vessel for several months.

“I believe it is important that Calmac look now at additional capacity to the islands during the Uig Harbour closure, and I have asked the Scottish Government whether there are any plans once again to charter or purchase MV Arrow, or any other available vessel, for this purpose.”

 

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