Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Macneil and MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today met with Minister for Transport, Jenny Gilruth MSP, along with CalMac, CMAL, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and representatives of the Ferries Community Board to raise their concern about the present disruption to the routes served by MV Hebrides.
On Tuesday, a fault with MV Hebrides’ CO2 firefighting system caused her withdrawal from her routes to Harris and North Uist. Sailings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled, with MV Isle of Mull repositioning today to operate services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy from Friday 5 August.
It is currently anticipated that MV Hebrides will be back in service on Sunday 7 August.
Commenting, Angus MacNeil MP said:
“Clearly, at a time when the islands are making money in the summer with the ferries, this is a terrible time for them to breakdown. RET was set up to increase the economic activity on the islands, when the boats are not sailing, the effects are acutely felt. I think everyone is gobsmacked that the same system affects the same boat in a matter of days.
“We can all feel the frustration of the effects of ferries breaking down.
“I am encouraged that the Scottish Government are trying to source an extra vessel that can be on standby when a vessel breaks down which many of us have urged them to do.”
Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“I am grateful to the Minister for organising today’s meeting and for the update on the situation.
“I made clear the overwhelming sense of frustration of affected communities. I appreciate the uniqueness of the situation CalMac faces in having a firefighting system repaired and cleared by the MCA, only to see the same issue reoccur days later. However, that’s of no solace to the communities that have seen their vessel taken out of service for the fifth time this year. It’s ultimately islanders and island businesses and that pay the price of these large scale disruptions.
“The Minister agreed to look at whether a compensation scheme can be created from the financial penalties Transport Scotland receives from CalMac as a result of sailings which do not go ahead. I was also pleased to hear the Scottish Government’s recognition of the need for the Uig Triangle to be served by two vessels to ensure adequate resilience.
”However, the meeting left CalMac and Transport Scotland in no doubt that the current situation is unendurable.”