Islay Ferry News Snippets

Some very interesting and mainly positive ferry related news snippets tonight about RET, late winter timetables, strikes, tenders, extra winter sailings and ferry replacements.

Michael Russell says RET will apply to six metre commercials
The Ileach contacted Michael Russell MSP following representations from readers concerned about reports that the proposed extension of the small commercial van category to six metres under RET was to be scrapped. Russell assured us that he has checked the situation with the Scottish Government’s transport minister, Keith Brown, and that there is no threat to the six metre rule. Russell says that the confusion over the ruling occurred following a debate about who would meet the cost of the change, but that there was never any intention to remove it.

Late timetables and late fares
RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) is scheduled to be introduced on the Islay route from October this year. Fares and timetables have yet to be be published by CalMac. The delay has been criticised by businesses on Islay who point out that it is currently impossible for travellers to make bookings for the winter period. In conversation with the Ileach, Russell was unable to give a precise date for the release of the new fares and timetable, but described it as “imminent”.

Reid welcomes extra winter sailing to Islay
Alan Reid MP attended the meeting called by CalMac at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile where the future of the Islay ferry service was discussed. Following the meeting Mr Reid said, “I welcome the commitment given by CalMac that there will be an extra round trip sailing between Kennacraig and Islay, Monday to Friday, during the winter months. This will more than make up for the loss of the Finlaggan during the winter. I very much hope that CalMac will continue with this additional sailing during the summer. “At the meeting, concern was expressed that passengers still can’t book sailings for the coming winter because the Scottish Government haven’t decided on the fares. The Scottish Government must sort out the fare structure quickly or visitors will be lost to the island.” Continue reading...

Ferry replacement
The simple question we should all be asking our MSPs... How are these ships going to be replaced?
Most people are aware that successive governments have neglected to invest in the CalMac/CMAL fleet with the result that the average age of the ships is now 22 years, with the ‘Isle of Arran’ and the ‘Hebridean Isles’ being 29 and 27 years old respectively. The decision making, design, build and commissioning process that brought the MV Finlaggan into service took ten years. We now know that the Finlaggan is not to be used exclusively for the Islay route, but will spend up to five months of the year on other runs.
It is therefore time for some decisive political leadership. How and when is the Scottish Government, which wholly owns CalMac and CMAL, intending to replace these ships? CalMac are about to withdraw the freight vessel MV Muirneag from the freight service between Stornoway and Ullapool, fundamentally because, at thirty four years, she is too old and it is simply uneconomic to maintain her certification. While the parallels are not exact, we are all capable of doing simple mathematics. Time is running out. We need to know what the plan is....

Editorial: Five a day - good for our health
The announcement by CalMac Managing Director Martin Dorchester that sailings to Islay are to move up to five a day - starting with the 2012/13 winter timetable represents a very significant step forward for our ferry service. While there is no long term commitment to five a day, we are entitled to assume that we will also receive five a day throughout the summer of 2013. It is surely inconceivable that CalMac would provide us with five a day during the winter months, and then cut that to four a day during the summer on the grounds that the winter had not been busy enough.

While details are yet to be published, introducing the additional sailing, which will utilise the vessel that currently sits idle at Port Ellen from midday to six o’clock, will surely mean that this will depart Port Ellen at 13.00hrs, returning from Kennacraig at 15.30hrs. The attractions of these departure times will be immediately apparent to islanders and visitors alike. We will now be able to conduct a morning’s business before catching the ferry, and still be on the island, or in Glasgow, in time for evening events, be it dinner with the family, or even a show. Truly a significant step forward.

The announcement was a welcome surprise, and went much further than the Community Council had called for (see the Ileach of 28th July). The ICC had basically demanded the additional sailing during peak periods, but CalMac has responded with a blanket five-a-day five days a week. We must assume that argument is that the potential for increased traffic under RET, plus the demands of the burgeoning whisky industry makes it impossible to justify ferries sitting about doing nothing. CalMac supported their arguments with various sets of statistics at the public meeting. One of these presentations clearly showed that the ferry service to Islay during last winter was under utilised to put it mildly. The additional sailing, plus RET, takes us into hitherto uncharted waters. It will be very interesting to see what the effect of five-a-day will be on carryings during 2012/13.

To strike or not to strike
The upcoming tender of ferry services in the west of Scotland is reason for Calmac employees to possibly strike if the government continues to break up the lifeline ferry services in the hebrides and put them out to tender individually. Today however the Scotsman published an article with news about a possible delay of the tender:

NO FINAL decisions have been made on the tendering of ferry services, the Scottish Government said yesterday as a union claimed its campaign against the proposals is paying off. The RMT said government plans to consider putting some ferry routes run by state-owned Caledonian MacBrayne out to tender have been pushed back by three years, although the government said there have been no decisions. The routes are Ardrossan to Brodick, Wemyss Bay to Rothesay, Oban to Craignure and Largs to Cumbrae. Ferry workers represented by RMT voted on Wednesday for strike action to defend pensions and workplace rights. RMT said it had received assurances last week that the ferry services will not be privatised and the routes would not be unbundled. To be continued....

Published with kind permission of the Ileach Newspaper

Tag: calmac ferry strike ferry tender timetables