A former Scottish Office minister has called for an independent review of “current and future issues affecting west coast ferry services”.
Brian Wilson, who served in Tony Blair’s governments and now lives on the Isle of Lewis, has spoken out following more disruption on Caledonian MacBrayne’s routes – which saw a ferry diverted to save guests from missing the wedding of Roddy Macinnes and Lisa Gilmour on Barra at the weekend.
Following huge pressure from the Barra community, councillor Donald Manford and Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, CalMac dispatched the MV Isle of Mull to the island after the MV Isle of Lewis broke down on Thursday.
Mr Wilson, who is chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides – and a UK Government business advisor – said: “This is now a case of the whole being bigger than the sum of the parts.
“It is completely unfair on CalMac Ferries and the people who work for them that they are at the sharp end of every crisis while the causes are largely outside their control.”
Mr Wilson’s call came off the back of an open letter from a CalMac skipper, retiring after 34 years, who warned: “Attention needs to be focused on the infrastructure problems if the company I’ve been proud to serve is not to fall flat on its face fairly soon.
“Our piers were built maybe 70 years ago for puffers to dry out alongside. We added linkspans and dolphins and called them ro-ro terminals.”
CalMac said it continues to work with Transport Scotland to find “new flexible and effective approaches to address the on-going challenges of operating an ageing fleet with an increasing number of sailings.”
Managing director Robbie Drummond said: “We are operating with an ageing fleet which is increasingly being stretched.
“We need to continue to find new ways to maximise our vessels operational resilience and have invested in a new team that will help mitigate potential problems before they escalate into something that impacts on service delivery.”
“With our vessels setting sail around 360 times every day, this team has the mobility required to complete planned maintenance when and where it is needed on the network minimising disruption to service due to technical issues.”