SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has warmly welcomed today’s announcement from the Scottish Government that a further two new vessels will be built to add to the CalMac fleet, and that these will provide dedicated ferry services to Harris and North Uist in the summer months.
The vessels will be constructed to broadly the same specification as the vessels currently on order for Islay, significantly accelerating the present timescales for new vessels becoming available over the coming years. The Scottish Government’s intention is to deliver dedicated services to North Uist and Harris in the peak season rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place. This will also create the opportunity for significantly increased capacity and resilience for the communities of the Western Isles.
It is expected that the contract will be awarded before the end of the year. The overall project costs are estimated at around £115 million, including allowance for minor port improvements. Vessel 802 currently under construction at Port Glasgow - which was earmarked for the Skye Triangle routes – will now be considered for alternative routes.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“I am delighted with today’s announcement.
“The communities of North Uist and Harris have been making convincing arguments for dedicated vessels, on the basis that they would provide both increased capacity and much-needed additional resilience. I have continued to raise these issues with the Scottish Government and I have to give credit to the Transport Minister for her engagement on this issue with the affected communities.
“Dedicated vessels will mean significantly more capacity for these routes and will mean that the ferry network across the Western Isles has much better resilience in the event of breakdowns or disruptions.
“Island stakeholders have been calling for the Islay vessels to be replicated elsewhere to speed up vessel construction and give increased standardisation across the network. I warmly welcome this approach and I look forward to getting more information on delivery dates in due course.
“Today’s move by the Scottish Government to increase the number of vessels available to CalMac represents a significant step forward for ferry services in the islands.”