Where is the Plan B Calmac?

The ferry chaos caused in the weekend after Easter by the one ferry timetable reached us as well. We were supposed to leave on Friday morning, the 10th of April, with the 7am ferry from Port Ellen. However, after the ferry broke down earlier in the week we quickly figured out that this was one of the sailings likely to be cancelled. A check with the local port office confirmed this. That was our plans down the drain for a break in an already booked and paid for hotel near Inverness, as there were no other early departure options available than to go on the standby list. All other ferries for that day, and the two subsequent days, were fully booked. Yes that's three days in a row!

There was one alternative left and that was the last available space on the Friday evening ferry from Port Askaig to Oban. As we were going north that was an alternative so we booked it with the intention to try standby for the 09.45am ferry from Port Ellen. As we arrived in Port Ellen we heard that we were number 25 on the standby list so we didn't bother to wait. We decided to make the best of the day and leave on the evening ferry to Oban. Continue reading...

When we arrived late in the afternoon at Port Askaig it was chaos. All lanes were filled with cars and only lane 1, for booked cars, was free so I quickly parked the car there to wait for the arrival of the Lord of the Isles to Oban (picture). I heard from several folk there that they had been waiting at Port Askaig all day and there were already 45 cars on standby. Quite a few of them probably never made it off the island that day as the planned extra night ferry was cancelled as well due to the staff needing a break, some started working at 5am! I must say I admire them for staying so friendly and trying to help everyone as they probably had the worst day ever.

Now who is to blame for this mess? Of course not the friendly folk at the ports. They had to deal with all the very unhappy passengers, sometimes with small children and further travel arrangements which could not be met. It's the lack of proper overhaul planning and also the lack of a Plan B that has caused this chaos. I think having an aged fleet is of course a part of the problem but as long as you have an alternative on standby it doesn't really matter. How can you run a lifeline ferry service without having a Plan B at all? Why is there no ferry and crew on standby to cover any breakdowns in the entire network? They could also cover extra sailings during peak times at special events such as running a three ferry service during both Islay Festival weekends and other events on the Scottish west coast. Come on Calmac, CMAL or Transport Scotland or whoever is responsible. Let's try and prevent this once and for all ok?

Tag: ferry travel calmac