With the introduction of the new Islay ferry foreseen in 2011, she will replace the Isle of Arran ferry, politicians feel the need to come up with new ideas for the old as well as for the new ferry. A couple of days ago I published an article from the Ileach newspaper in which Councillor Currie calls for a triangular ferry route between Oban, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and Islay using the Isle of Arran ferry when it becomes available next year. A very interesting idea in my opinion although I doubt if Calmac will feel the same. In the intro text of that same article I mentioned that the new ferry could also run from Oban to Port Askaig, instead of Kennacraig to Port Ellen/Port Askaig. This is not something I came up with, I read it in last weeks Ileach and it came from the hand of Councillor Douglas Tott, more about him later. Earlier in the year an article appeared in the Harold titled 'Fears over future Scottish Ferry network'. Paul Finch, associate director of one the UK's leading transport consultancies, claimed the Scottish Government would have to find Â£240m to replace vessels which are nearing the end of their life cycle. He also warned that ministers would face "difficult decisions" about whether to reduce vital services to Scotland's islands in the forthcoming ferries review unless a way was found to fund replacement programmes. Continue reading....
This means that there is or will become pressure from the Scottish government to save money, a lot of money. Carl Reavey, editor of Islay's rewarded newspaper, mentioned the Oban to Port Askaig option in his article about the new ferry not fitting Port Ellen earlier in the year. That was in April and only six months later another article appeared in the Ileach from the hand of Councillor Douglas Tott in which he calls for the new ferry to sail between Oban and Port Askaig: "Islay Community Councillor Douglas Tott has called for the new ferry being built for the Islay run to operate exclusively between Port Askaig and Oban. In a submission to the Scottish Government Ferries Review Tott says 'if the new ferry in 2011 only sails between Port Askaig and Oban then CMAL will not require to do any work on the Port Ellen and Kennacraig piers saving Â£38 million.' In further correspondence with the Ileach the new Councillor claims: 'If my views are implemented then it should be possible for the 4.30am Monday morning sailing from Port Askaig to Oban to call in to Colonsay to pick up traffic and passengers including secondary school children attending Oban High School. The Friday evening sailing departing Oban at 6pm could also call in at Colonsay on route to Port Askaig. This would allow these pupils to get home for the weekend, something they are unable to do during the period of the Winter Timetable.'
I think it's safe to assume that many people will reject this proposal, unless perhaps the second ferry will continue to operate from Kennacraig to Port Ellen. Some of the disadvantages in my opinion of travelling from Oban are that the travel time will become longer depending of course where you are coming from, the village of Port Ellen will suffer economically when the ferry wouldn't arrive there anymore, the route from Oban to Port Askaig is much more vulnerable for delays/cancellations due to the unsheltered parts of the route and I also think that businesses in and around Tarbert will suffer as well when the Islay crowds no longer visit this lovely town. I have probably missed a couple of other (dis)advantages and these are just my personal views of course. I'm interested to hear the opinion of the readers and I invite you to express your opinions through the comment link below.
Update: The Ileach posted the complete correspondance between the Ferries Review and Councillor Douglas Tott. Click here for access