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Delight at plans to return MV Coruisk to Lochaber-Skye route

MV Coruisk
MV Coruisk

Skye and Lochaber residents are celebrating a victory for people power after forcing CalMac to give them back their ferry.

Users of the Mallaig to Armadale ferry have been campaigning against changes to their ferry service, which has left both island and mainland businesses struggling to survive.

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, who took up their cause, yesterday announced that their appeals for the purpose-built MV Coruisk to be reinstated on the crossing had been successful.

CalMac removed the Coruisk from the route between Lochaber and Skye and put it on the Mull crossing at the start of the summer timetable.

It was replaced by two smaller vessels – MV Lochinvar and MV Loch Bhrusda – which are unable to operate at low tide – and the Lord of the Isles during the down time from her regular Lochboisdale run.

There was widespread concern about the move as it led to an increase in ferry cancellations.

This led to disruption for users and loss of business, as visitors and tourism operators were not guaranteed a reliable service.

The strength of local feeling against the change was demonstrated by an online petition, which gained around 1,750 signatures.

Mr Blackford yesterday said he had spoken to CalMac managing director Martin Dorchester and been assured that MV Coruisk would return to the service.

He said: “They are seeking the support of Transport Scotland to sign off on the redeployment and it is accepted that the demands of the route require an additional vessel to support the volume of traffic that is anticipated.

“This is good news for users of the service.”

The MP said the deployment of the Coruisk, enhanced by the additional capacity of a second vessel, would add to the attractions of the route, giving a considerable boost to the local economy.

He added that he was delighted CalMac had responded to public pressure and recognised that the route was suffering reliability issues.

Sleat Transport Forum chairman Roddy Murray said: “We are highly delighted with the decision and that we will now have an effective ferry service for the rest of the season.

“I think they have listened to the people, but the people have had to speak very loudly and over a long period of time for their voices to be heard. Political clout had to be applied as well.

“It was a bit of a painful time for everybody concerned but we’re pleased that the company and Transport Scotland have seen the sense of our arguments and returned the ferry to the route for which it was designed to handle the peculiarity of the tides.”

And Clan Donald Skye chief executive Jan Wallwork-Clarke, who set up the online petition, said the communities were very pleased they were getting their boat back.

She previously said the popular tourist attraction had suffered a 26.4 per cent drop in coach visits compared to last year due to the smaller ferries not being able to take coaches.

She said: “I was so relieved when I got the call to say we would have the MV Coruisk returned to this route.

“It has been such a stressful time witnessing the falling visitor numbers on a daily basis.

“Time now to get the good news out there so our shared customers can be assured that the beautiful and popular crossing on the Coruisk can be enjoyed once again.”

Last night, despite Mr Blackford’s talks with Mr Dorchester, CalMac’s press office was reluctant to confirm that the Coruisk would definitely be back on the crossing.

A company spokesman said: “Returning the Coruisk is one of the solutions we are looking at to help address ongoing reliability problems on the Mallaig-Armadale route.

“However, any vessel realignment has consequences for other routes and we are currently exploring all the implications such a change would have before any final decision is made.”