SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has highlighted the severe impact on the South Uist community caused by the most recent period of disruption to their ferry service in a meeting with the Transport Minister and CalMac last night.
MV Lord of the Isles, which usually operates between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, was removed from service last Friday following the discovery of eroded steel on part of her hull, issues with her port main engine, and problems with her radar system. These issues appear to have materialised only a few weeks after MV Lord of the Isles completed her annual overhaul in drydock.
Yesterday evening, the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth, hosted an emergency resilience meeting with local stakeholders and representatives from CalMac and CMAL to discuss the ongoing repairs and mitigations in place throughout this latest disruption period.
While it hoped that MV Lord of the Isles will resume service tomorrow, assuming the successful completion of sea trials today, representatives in the meeting expressed their concern that the period of time in dry dock, particularly for older vessels, does not seem to be long enough to identify key issues. CalMac representatives were also asked why a more viable alternative route via the sound of Barra had not been put in place, given that the existing timetable should allow for this.
Commenting following yesterday’s meeting, the islands’ MSP said:
“It is extremely frustrating to have one of our lifeline ferries suddenly out of service with not just one, but three different faults needing addressed, when she has only just returned to service from being in drydock. This is very worrying, and is causing yet more damage to the community in South Uist, which has already experienced its worst year on record in terms of its service’s reliability.
“This route is meant to be playing a vital role in the mitigation arrangements for when the first closure period for the work at Uig pier begins next month. The Scottish Government are procuring a replacement vessel for Lochboisdale but, meantime, CalMac need to give assurances about how they plan to keep the current one in service.
“It is my hope that MV Lord of the Isles can resume service tomorrow as CalMac are anticipating.”