Kate Forbes MSP has written to the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, to highlight the need for an urgent solution for CalMac on a popular ferry route from Skye to Lochaber.
Following CalMac’s decision to remove the MV Lord of the Isles from the route in March, in order to move ferries around the network, the Mallaig to Armadale crossing has been plagued with cancellations and local businesses are reporting a substantial drop in visitors compared to the same period last year.
Whilst the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch welcomed CalMac’s decision yesterday (19 April) to introduce a second, albeit small, vessel on the route later this month, she made clear that 125 cancellations in 25 days was “simply not acceptable”.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “On Monday (23 April), the Mallaig to Armadale crossing will have seen 125 cancellations in the first 25 days of the summer timetable because of the domino effect of moving vessels about.
“This is having a seriously adverse impact on the local economy, with one popular tourist attraction in the south of Skye reporting a 25 per cent drop in visitor numbers and a 50 per cent coach cancellation rate compared to the same period in 2017.
“We all recognise the challenges of the aging fleet, but there are people here whose daily lives are being affected.
“I am sure the Transport Minister will agree that this is deeply concerning, and we cannot lurch from summer to summer with growing uncertainty about this route.”
Regrettably because the remaining vessel on the route, the MV Loch Fyne, cannot operate in low tides, a tidal timetable has been in operation.
Kate Forbes MSP continued: “Whilst it is helpful to know a second, albeit smaller, vessel is coming to serve the route soon, we shouldn’t be in this position in the first place.
“Businesses and residents have already taken a hit from CalMac’s movements of vessel around the network.
“We have been here before in the summer of 2016, and it is deeply unfortunate that we’re here again – in perhaps an even worse situation.
“The bottom line is that people need to live, work and travel and for the last month there has been far too much uncertainty hanging over the Mallaig to Armadale route.
“Notwithstanding the significant impact already, this has got to be fixed before the height of the peak tourist season.”