New Transport Minister humiliates CalMac MD

An utterly incoherent series of moves by state owned west coast ferries operator CalMac over the service between Mallaig im Lochaber and Armadale on Skye has ended with new Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, forcing CalMac CEO, Martin Dorchester, into a humiliating climbdown that underlines forcefully who really calls the shots in what is presented as a freestanding incorporation.

Spinning on the water – the first revolution

Firstly, CalMac and Transport Scotland [under former Transport Minister, Derek Mackay] had announced and then implemented a new summer season fleet deployment.

This was designed to respond best to the relative needs of the island destinations following the projected impacts on demand of the massive Road Equivalent Tariff [RET]  discounts now offered across the entire west coast ferry network.

The new arrangements gave the busy Isle of Mull, 45 minutes offshore of the scenic mainland coastal harbour of Oban, a second boat, increasing  carrying capacity and offering an enhanced service frequency.

The second boat in question was the MV Coruisk, built for and annually serving the Mallaig-Armadale route in the summer season.

With Coruisk’s departure, the Skye service was then delivered by three vessels, in a move that left the taxpayer picking up an increased operational tab.

The trouble was that in low tidal conditions, these vessels could not deliver to the Armadale slipway, with a high level of resulting service cancellations – and outrage from Skye.

Mull and Skye are both very well known and celebrated islands, magnets for tourism and particularly so now that RET has made west coast ferry travel so cheap.

Mull is accessible only by sea. Skye has the spectacular Skye Bridge on its inland northeast corner – but the geography of the mainland west coast means that traffic from the south heading for the island has an additional couple of hours on the road to use that point of access as opposed to taking the 40 minute ferry from Mallaig to Armadale – on the inland south east of the island.

When the new arrangements were seeing the Armadale service suffering repeated cancellations, furious residents, supported by their new MP, Ian Blackford, launched a petition that was said to have attracted 800 signatures in one hour.

Spinning on the water – the reverse evolution

The public pressure from Skye, in its robust demands for the return of ‘our ferry’, the Coruisk, was skilfully maintained on reheat – and on 1st June, the Oban Times published an article announcing that Mr Blackford had told them that, following a discussion he had had with CalMac CEO, Martin Dorchester, the Coruisk was to be returned to Skye’s Armadale service.

The Oban Times article ended with the words: ‘A spokesperson for CalMac was unable to confirm the news when contacted by The Oban Times’.

Despite this responsible caveat, there has been no denial by CalMac of the existence of this conversation nor of its claimed outcome.

Some of Mr Blackford’s specific words quoted by the Oban Times were as follows [and the emphases are ours]: ‘I am delighted that Caledonian MacBrayne has decided to return the MV Coruisk to operate the service between Mallaig and Armadale and are seeking the support of Transport Scotland to sign off on the redeployment. It is also accepted that the demands of the route require an additional vessel to support the volume of traffic that is anticipated.’

The picture at that stage was CalMac unilaterally reversing a major service redesign affecting two islands; and ‘seeking Transport Scotland’s ‘support’ for the move.

The boot seemed emphatically on the CalMac MD’s foot.

The welcome of the decision from Skye was unequivocal, with Mr Blackford saying: ‘The company and its management are to be commended for restoring the Coruisk to service on the route.’

The article made no mention whatsoever of the impact on Mull of this agreement between two other parties.

That was then – 1st June 2016. Skye was getting back the Coruisk.

Spinning on the water – the next revolve

A short week later, on 7th June, CalMac issued the press statement seen  below in full.

This reverses its MD’s recent reversal of the new fleet assignments, asserting that Coruisk will remain on the Oban route; and that timetable changes made to the Mallaig-Armadale run are now addressing the issues of service unreliability on that route.

This communication appears – in awkward fashion – to be claiming this decision as its own initiative – yet it flies absolutely in the face of the agreement made seven days earlier by CalMac’s MD with Ian Blackford, to return the Coruisk forthwith to the Skye run.

The key to the situation lies in the second element of Mr Blackford’s information to The Oban Times – that CalMac was to seek the support [not the consent] of Transport Scotland for the settled return of Coruisk.

It is clear that the ‘support’ of the new Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, was not given and that he has seen fit to remind Mr Dorchester sharply of the limits of his authority.

Whatever the ‘arms length’ situation may be spun to be, in this state owned company it is the sole shareholder, the Scottish Government acting through Transport Scotland – that calls the shots. It is a master-slave relationship with political expediency not transport efficiencies dictating what passes for ‘policy’.

CalMac and its various MDs have always been in an invidious situation, appearing to have authority they cannot assert. The compromise here is that Mr Dorcheste has been allowed to claim that his second sudden change of mind – to retain Coruisk on the Oban route after all – was all his own work.

The fact that this is palpably untrue and that his paymaster cracked the whip, is the sort of cruelty politicians like to practice in inflicting punitive humiliation on those who forget the realities of their position in the scheme of things.

While Mr Dorchester was surprisingly remiss in failing to take into account the consequences for Mull of the agreement he made with Ian Blackford, his hands are tied by the limitations of the politically disposed fleet.

The Isle of Arran has for some time been used as a relief vessel and could have served as second boat on the Oban route.

But she has been politically deployed permanently [following a failed three year pilot operation] as the vessel delivering a few weekly summer season services between Ardrossan in Ayrshire and Campbeltown in Kintyre – sailing a shamefully useless timetable that cannot offer a day trip to Campbeltown and indeed requires a stay of two nights before a sea return is possible.

So Oban keeps the Coruisk – until Skye, as of course it will, increases the pressure yet again; and Mallaig-Armadale is still served by three vessels, with the taxpayer, as always, picking up the tab.

The CalMac press statement

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) has confirmed it intends making no further changes to the Mallaig-Armadale service this summer but has agreed, after listening to community concerns, that it will review vessel deployment for summer 2017 in consultation with affected communities.

CalMac Managing Director Martin Dorchester said the timetable changes made in light of reliability issues on the Mallaig-Armadale service had noticeably improved performance on the route.

He said: ‘We regret that our plans for the Mallaig-Armadale route have fallen short of some expectations but I would stress that every change to our summer timetable was made after consultation with the local communities and each change was made in good faith with the sole intention of enhancing ferry services and addressing local concerns, some long-standing, about services in their area. We should also not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of these changes have been warmly welcomed by those local communities.

‘For the first two months of the Mallaig-Armadale summer service passenger numbers have risen by 9.9% and vehicles by 20%, or more than 2600 extra cars since the start of the summer travelling to the island on that route.This route continues to carry more passengers and more traffic to Skye than it has ever done in the past.  While we accept there were issues, the changes we have made to the timetable have appeared to address a number of these, but we will of course continue to monitor performance on the route.

‘We have also been mindful that with vehicle carryings up around 40% on the Oban-Craignure route the additional capacity provided by the MV Courisk has had a positive impact on the communities of Mull and Iona.

‘Having thoroughly explored all the options regarding these two routes and the implications for the rest of the network of a vessel reshuffle part way through the summer season, we have reached the conclusion that the arrangements we currently have in place are the best possible to meet many differing demands with the resources we have.’

CalMac and Scottish Ministers are fully committed to the route and CalMac has pledged to continue to work with and support Sleat for the remainder of 2016, the latest initiative being the revised timetable.

Mr Dorchester added: ‘Concerns to date have focused on the MV Coruisk and vessel deployment in general , but the port and harbour infrastructure we have to use is also a major limiting factor across our network when it comes to planning and operating services and we will be speaking to the relevant authorities, in this case Mallaig Harbour Authority, Argyll and Bute Council and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd ( CMAL) to seek their support in getting the investment in infrastructure required to address some of these issues.

‘With the tender now under our belt we will shortly be turning our attention to summer 2017 services and will be working with all communities on what these might look like. We are particularly keen to capitalise on the significant growth achieved since the full roll out of RET fares to see how we can continue to support that for the benefit of all the communities we support.’

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Related Articles & Comments

  • How does this square with the Transport Scotland statements in the BBC article on 6 June that “Transport Scotland said the deployment of ferries was an operational matter for CalMac”.

    Is it or isn’t it? Nobody seems to know, not the operator or the public body. Is it any wonder the network is a fat and shambolic mess.

    Everyone wants credit for the upside but are all too willing to point the finger at the other side and say ‘its their decision’ when something messy hits the headlines.

    And we have 8 more years of this confusion. At least with an independent operator it would have been very clear who specifies and who is being paid to deliver the contract.

    Is it now Humza Yousaf who will be hauled before the Sleat Transport Committee to explain his dictate, not Martin Dorchester?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

    Jerry McIver June 9, 2016 10:28 am Reply
    • There appears to be no ultimate accountability in this set up – a situation which suits all concerned except ferry users and taxpayers.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

      newsroom June 9, 2016 11:38 am Reply
  • I think there is quite a lot going on behind the scenes, particularly regarding CMAL.

    There have been quite strong hints in emails I have seen, principally from one MSP, who is no stranger to Argyll, regarding what may be SG future policy towards CMAL.

    What I have read into the comments is that,given that CMAL was formed as an asset owning body, to put supposed distance between the owner of the assets, and the operator of the CHFS, ostensibly to facilitate open market tendering of said services , (as if) and that CALMAC has now,and for the second time,been awarded the contract,what is the ongoing function and therefore point of CMAL into the future?

    Does this mean that SG thinking is, that it is unlikely that it will ever again be necessary to tender these services, and one wonders also, if, given that we were told that the principal reason for tendering ever to take place was due to EU insistence, that Holy Rood anticipates a vote for UK to leave EU?

    Whatever the case,it may be that some very expensive jackets are hanging on a potentially slack nail in the CMAL cloakroom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    Proudest Scot in the UK June 9, 2016 1:20 pm Reply
  • It’s all very well contemplating the relationship of Calmac, CMAL, the Holyrood and Westminster governments, and the potential effects of UK and EU political fragmentation, but the basic problems facing the provision of fit-for purpose ferry services are surely the apparent lack of central government attention to the problems of fragmented ferry network management.
    Calmac supposedly exists to effectively operate the west coast ferry network, but doesn’t manage a significant number of its terminal facilities, and doesn’t seem to manage the coordination of the timetable for expanding the RET fare reductions across the network with provision of ferries that can cope with the impact of this policy.
    Examples of other issues that arise include problems for Calmac ferries docking at Rothesay if council shore staff go on strike, at Craignure if the the council’s passenger gangway is out of order, and at various places if a ferry’s ramp is incompatible with the ports’ link span – either due to conflicting widths and alignments or due to having been designed for slipway landings rather than linkspans.
    It’s all very well trumpeting the commissioning of pioneering but unreliable hybrid ‘green’ ferries at enormous cost, but is that really where the priorities should lie? Hybrid city buses to help cut excessive levels of atmospheric pollution make a lot of sense, but west coast ferries? Over to Humza Yousaf.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

    Robert Wakeham June 9, 2016 3:16 pm Reply
    • It shouldn’t matter if its fragmented so long as each part of the overall operation knows its own role and the role of others. The irony in this set up, unlike Railways where the whole thing is a fragmented collection of private interests held together with a legal framework everybody understands, the whole West Coast ferry network is ultimately a fragmented collection of public sector bodies and a couple of independent port operators with no coordinated plan or funding, little understanding of who does what and who is responsible for what and loosely controlled by the Scottish Government with who knows what framework or experience ensuring it all works.

      It’s a recipe for disaster. The only outcome of this is a vastly expensive solution with leaks and gaps all over the place and no sense of accountability by anyone. You would hope the next contract has been written to be much more tightly defined and managed than the current arrangement.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

      Jerry McIver June 9, 2016 4:24 pm Reply
      • Irrespective of who is running these “rail-roaded” ferry routes they can only exist with the Billions of public expenditure that heads their way through grants, subsidies and now RET.
        The two private ferry operators are successful because they themselves decide on the best routes, the best port locations and the best ships for the purpose. They are not beholden to the local port barons and if a more efficient route exists they will endeavour to get access to it and develop there as Pentland are trying to do at Burwick. Efficiency is what makes or breaks them, no government benefactor to throw taxpayers money at them like confetti as is thrown at the harlot CMAL-CALMAC.
        There are too many ferries and too many routes, the answer is better roads to the best crossings with privately owned ferries applying for licenses to run services in competition. If fares are too high on a particular route then the customer should be able to claim a subsidy if he/she qualifies.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

        Murdoch MacKenzie June 9, 2016 7:30 pm Reply
        • Interesting that you mention Pentland Ferries, Murdoch.

          The principal of this out fit, Mr Andrew Banks, an intensely private man, but a man possessed of a level of dogged determination which is so far beyond the ordinary as to be quite remarkable.
          He and his co surmounted every concievable obstacle to become established. Not all of those were from the usual govt busybody suspects, many came from the enemy within, namely OIC. This is why, after all this time, that Pentland are still struggling to be able to use Burwick instead of the less convenient(longer passage time, St Margarets Hope.

          All that aside though. Andrew Banks has stated publicly, that if his co were to receive the mega million pound subsidy paid to Northlink on their Pentland firth service, he would be able to carry everone to and from Orkney for nothing.It is fairly obvious from this, that our politicians are not easily embarrassed, so, what will happen if it is decided, as must be likey, that RET is extended to the Northern isles routes.
          Will Banks’co, which operates with zero public subsidy, yet makes a real profit, be thrown to the lions? Well, by the tone of many of the SNP supporting Stalinist goons who comment on this and other sites, and to whom private enterprise, risk, hard work and success are utter anathema, who would bet against it.
          You can just hear them.
          “Ah dinna gie a f—k whit it costs the country, there’ll be nae Tories here”

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

          Proudest Scot in the UK June 9, 2016 10:21 pm Reply
          • History repeating itself again PSITUK. Western Ferries said the same about their Islay route decades ago. Not sure if they did for their Clyde/Argyll route as well. Will someone in government somewhere ever take them seriously? Every single route should be examined, and shorter routes identified where possible. Then if new ports and roads are required, then start building them, and ferries to suit. Yes, do it all over time, and as others have stated, savings will eventually start to show. Stop upping the subsidy and RET year after year, as it will all end in tears as the saying goes.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

            Dunoon Lad June 10, 2016 3:10 pm
    • Cobblers.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

      Nae Fear Here June 9, 2016 6:00 pm Reply
    • I have got to say the HATERD for calmac knows no bounds its not just you, most people on this web site are the same .
      you need to try taking the blinkers off

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

      Iain June 9, 2016 10:32 pm Reply
      • Iain, I don’t think anyone here hates Calmac, the ships and the crews, who run a neat operation.
        The management and Transport Scotland, the ones making the bad decisions are the ones being attacked. They will spend £2Bn in this decade and will probably still be holding their hand out for more in the next. Earning money is what hard working taxpayers do, their credo is to grab it and waste it.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

        Murdoch MacKenzie June 9, 2016 11:29 pm Reply
      • Don’t mistake hatred for frustration. See Calmac for what it is, an iconic brand with black, white and red ferries operating on the west coast of Scotland. Beneath that it’s a contract tendered by Government to a specification set by Government. Who manages this contract is irrelevant, so long as they are competent, efficient, transparent and accountable. Other than competence born out of years of running the same network in the same way, I’m not convinced the handful of overpaid stuffed shirts at David MacBrayne, owned by the Transport Minister and who control the current operator is demanding of any of those things. Why should it or would it be? Poacher and gamekeeper are one in the same.

        Long gone are the days when Caledonain MacBrayne was a buccaneering private operator that everyone seems emotionally attached to. Today it’s an out of control drain on the public finances that sucks up all the money the taxpayer can throw at it to subsidise an inefficient operation, a consequence of years of short term planning, funding and pandering to the demands of who shouts loudest, leaving no money for proper investment in vessels and ports, both of which are mostly tired and tatty and not at all charming to most visitors.

        Scotland could do so much better for so much less if it wasn’t wedded to the past. Starting with some basic clarity about who decides what and who is accountable and responsible for what isn’t too much of an ask in return for over £100m of taxpayer funding a year is it?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

        Jerry McIver June 12, 2016 12:03 pm Reply
  • There’s no room for a ramp and a linkspan in Mallaig as the harbour has no spare space, whereas there’s plenty of room for a ramp at Craignure; build a ramp there and the two small boats(Lochinvar and Loch Bhrusda according to Sleat Community Forum) assigned to the ill-conceived Mallaig-Armadale substitution could provide the same frequency and extra capacity as Coruisk. If they start planning it now it could be built in time for next year’s tourist season; new tonnage to duplicate Coruisk is at least 3 years away even if it’s planned, which it does not appear to be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    db June 9, 2016 3:34 pm Reply
    • Who will build the ramp as the council owns the pier and is skint apparently

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      gerry June 9, 2016 4:50 pm Reply
      • If it’s anything like the Loch Seaforth upgrades at Stornoway and Ullapool the owners will be granted a large chunk of the capital cost from the government. CMAL will do the project management and when it’s all completed the owner charges Calmac landing fees for vehicles and foot passengers. You would need to be destitute skint not to want a slice of the action.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

        Murdoch MacKenzie June 9, 2016 6:36 pm Reply
      • Calmac must have been paying harbour dues at Craignure for years, it’s served by one of the larger vessels and there are many services a day. The question must be where have all the harbour dues gone? It would run into millions, certainly enough at other ports to maintain them and invest in new facilities. Why is that not the case at Craignure?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        Jerry McIver June 9, 2016 7:05 pm Reply
        • Re. Pier dues at Craignure.

          Not sure of the exact figure paid by Calmac to ABC, but it’s over £1m annually.
          I’m sure the council will be delighted to fill in the gaps for you!!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

          Proudest Scot in the UK June 9, 2016 8:33 pm Reply
    • DB & G: Surely there is a link span at Mallaig – look at Google Earth.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Robert Wakeham June 9, 2016 8:17 pm Reply
      • Likspans yes, ramp no. The two are not necessarily compatible. Far better the SG row back from the, politically motivated, decision to run the Ard/Camp & Mallaig/LBD services that serve nobody’s interest and redeploy vessels accordingly.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        alexm June 9, 2016 9:50 pm Reply
  • Ferries Review? STAG Reports? Wherefor art thou … ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    clootiedupling June 9, 2016 6:48 pm Reply
  • A long time ago Roy Pedersen and others found that not only had Norwegian ferries much lower fares that Scottish ones, but also lower subsidies per passenger and vehicle carried. This was RET, and the first response of the establishment here was to deny that it existed.
    In due course that was replaced by ‘ yes they do have RET, but it would be far to expensive to introduce here ‘. This was true inasmuch as Norwegian RET could only be supported through Norwegian operating methods, and in no way would CalMac consider these. In due course, however, the pressure for RET became overwhelming, and it was introduced here , though in a cackhanded process and without a change of operating philosophy. Demand and costs have duly risen, as have deficits. What happens if the deficits have to be cut ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    Arthur Blue June 9, 2016 9:05 pm Reply
    • Then the Sword of Damocles falls on the powerfull ones heads and we are all back in the fifties. The people will rise and sweep them away, we will demand roads be built to the shortest and cheapest safe crossings just as we should have been doing since vehicle ferries became the chosen mode of travel and freight carrying.
      All subsidies seem to kill off any sense of reality in our minds. Sponging becomes policy making the lifeline services into the bedrock of lifestyle based tourism.
      A ferry that can take an 8mtr motorhome from Oban to Craignure for £19.50 has never been built, and never will be. Yet we subsidise hundreds of such carryings every week of the summer to the delight of the owners, who in many cases contribute little to the island economies. We subsidise cars for £13.00 on the same crossing, again to the delight of the owners and the added delight of the B & B’s that cater for them.
      Why on earth are we all subsidising all these spongers who have replaced hard-working families who actually lived off the land without any outside support?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

      Murdoch MacKenzie June 10, 2016 8:28 am Reply
      • You discredit yourself by referring to visitors as ‘spongers’.
        You have good points to make about the problems with the west coast ferry network, so why spoil it with a stupid rant?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        Robert Wakeham June 10, 2016 9:35 am Reply
        • I really did not mean to single out visitors as the spongers. Everyone of us who uses these services, or who maintain businesses that depend on these services, are reduced to being spongers, taking a subsidy to ferry vehicles on routes that are not the most efficient possible.
          Before the Road Equivalent Tariff was set up the best routes should have been identified and developed and only then should RET have been introduced, and only to these routes.
          The most efficient crossing to Mull, from a ferry cost perspective, and as things stand at present, has to be Lochaline-Fishnish. That is where the RET should have kicked in first. There is a lot that could be done to make this route more accessable. First a fixed crossing at the Corran narrows, which incidentally is about the same driving time from Tyndrum as Oban is, and road improvements on the 20 miles from the road junction down to Lochaline. Shuttle ferries could operate here and take all the Mull traffic plus all the Coll, Tiree and Barra traffic on towards their destinations. A new port would be developed on the West of Mull to service these routes.
          Now if the community preferred travelling from the Oban area straight across, then they should begin looking at alternative ferry routes in their area that could provide a demonstrable cheaper or equivalent service. maybe local government could provide a passenger service or even a subsidised car ferry for deserving cases.
          To avoid the forthcoming shock cuts in subsidy that Arthur warns of above we would be better to face reality and act accordingly.
          When you get roads and bridges built they just need maintaining through good times and bad. Subsidised ferries are great when money is freely available, but will disappear like snow off a dyke when the money runs out. Those who care about their communities should consider what may lie ahead and take permanence first.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

          Murdoch MacKenzie June 10, 2016 10:31 am Reply
          • MM

            You have regularly run your ‘ ferry-road ‘ options past FA readers for many years . Most of these options were assessed in the 2009 Hitrans Oban Hub report. Most were discarded/discounted for a variety of reasons, but mainly disproportionate capital investment for limited benefit.

            Ignoring investment costs , what you propose is a national infrastructure project with at least 20 year lead time to achieve operational delivery.

            The current Sleat Ferry issue is a direct consequence of Scottish Government’s (SG)refusal to timely invest in minor modifications at Craignure and its failure to invest in ferry renewal as per its own 2013 Ferry Plan. Throw in the Loch Seaforth bourach, and it is self evident SG’s Ferry planning and implementation is not fit for purpose.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

            Scotnat June 10, 2016 11:29 am
          • Scotnat, I was not previously aware of the report that you linked to but I am not surprised that it concluded as you say.
            The clue is in the name “Oban Hub”.
            Only a ferry provider of the IDP (I don’t pay) school would make Oban a car ferry hub, neither would an efficient enterprise choose Ullapool, Stornoway or Lochboisdale but, hey, that’s the way the steamer went in the old days when cars had a guy with a flag walking in front of them.
            Moving “Oban” out to Loch Tuath in Mull might have some capital costs but they would be mitigated against by the massive savings of the daily return dead-legs sailed by both the Coll and Barra ferries on the Sound of Mull. Added together they would amount to the cost of the provision of an un-needed sea going ferry and it’s running costs over all the years that the operation runs for.
            Road improvements through Mull are long overdue and the extra ferry traffic would make it qualify even if the existing traffic may not.
            Replacing Oban and Craignure would be an even better money saver. Instead of two large ferries (I believe that’s what’s promised) we can have the smaller, more frequent, shuttle ferry service across at Fishnish with the added bonus of better links to Ardnamurchan in the provision of the fixed link at Corran.
            A saving of £130M in vessel capital costs at today’s rates every 25 years, plus running costs in perpuity, and that’s just lancing the Oban boil. Then there’s the Clyde boil and the Hebridean boil to get the lancet to, it just makes your eyes water thinking about it, but as they say, “No pain, No gain.”

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

            Murdoch MacKenzie June 10, 2016 2:00 pm
          • Doesn’t Tiree have a system to get some income from motorhomes visiting the island? It always seems crazy to me the way they are allowed to park up in lay-by’s etc rather than use proper caravan sites.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

            Lundavra June 10, 2016 5:23 pm
          • One problem with setting up a completely new ferry port on the West of Mull is that it would be needed to build a whole infrastructure and virtually a small town. I got caught up in the Tiree ferry delays last week, it was looking as if it might not sail that day and I was dreading having to start trying finding a bed for the night if it was cancelled. Bad enough in Oban but impossible on the West of Mull (probably impossible on Mull itself at short notice).

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            Lundavra June 15, 2016 4:30 pm
          • Creating a ferry port on West Mull would be no different to the development of the Uig Triangle back in the early sixties. I was a regular user of this service and can’t remember ever suffering any hardship, although I’m sure there were instances of it over the years. Local people were quick to set up the required bars, restaurants, small hotels and B & B’s. It would be the same on Mull.
            With the Internet, mobile phones and texting, it is easy for Calmac to give travellers early warnings of delays so that they can amend their plans to suit.
            With four ferries linking Mull to the mainland and fixed link solutions within our capabilities, Mull, like Skye, is fast becoming an extension of the mainland. It seems to me that the ferry crossings which cause the greatest white noise are the ones that are the least remote, i.e. Mull, Skye and Dunoon.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

            Murdoch MacKenzie June 16, 2016 7:59 am
          • They cause the most noise because they want to be treated like the mainland with all its conveniences, but none of the disbenefits of remaining an island. You could add Arran, Bute and Cumbrae to that list.

            Either a proper amount of money is invested in fixed links, or short, fast, frequent and 100% reliable infrastructure for servicing a ferry connection, or Scottish Government should come clean and say the cost is too high to deliver what they want and it’s unaffordable.

            This bodged middle ground of hollow promises and clearly inadequate solutions has gone on for far too many years.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            Jerry McIver June 16, 2016 9:20 am
        • Cobblers. You excel in rants.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

          Nae Fear Here June 10, 2016 1:09 pm Reply
      • I really question how much someone values a service if it is given away so cheaply to the user. I sympathise with the genuine islanders who have to cross at all times of the year to go about their business. For them, affordable fares isn’t an unreasonable request in the true ‘lifeline’ sense.
        But to give away huge sums of public money by subsidising tourists to the extent they do is outrageous. For islands to be attractive they have to be affordable to visit, but when crossing with a car using a hugely expensive ferry surely there is a middle ground people will be happy to pay that isn’t pennies more than what you might pay to go as a single person for train journey between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which millions of us are prepared to pay without question.

        Financially sustainable it is not, any fool can see that.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

        Jerry McIver June 10, 2016 12:41 pm Reply
  • MV Coruisk since august 2003 on the Mallaig-Armadale route while MV Pionner is ferwell

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    Scott Smith June 9, 2016 9:27 pm Reply
  • Isle of Lewis said it stayed the night at Castlebay from summer 2016 and about On the Oban-Castlebay route. two ferries Isle of Mull & Coruisk on the Oban-Craignure this summer 2016 and next summer 2017.

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    Scott Smith June 9, 2016 9:55 pm Reply
  • I was looking at the posted on the ferry today, showing all the Calmac ferries and what route they operate on. Surprised no one had added any comments to ‘MV Coruisk Armadale – Mallaig’!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Lundavra June 10, 2016 5:25 pm Reply
  • Coruisk as a second vessel on the Oban-Craignure route this summer 2016 and next summer 2017

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    Scott Smith June 12, 2016 10:25 pm Reply
  • Coruisk stayed on the Oban-Craignure route summer 2016 and summer 2017. Lord of the isles unable to berth at mallaig by the force of the weather conditions. Bring Coruisk back or stay.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Scott Smith June 15, 2016 12:59 pm Reply
  • The new Brodick pier there are two ferries in August 2017 and new terminal is complete in August 2017.

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    Scott Smiith June 16, 2016 12:26 pm Reply
    • A fabulous terminal at Brodick and the reliability will still be appalling because everyone insists on going to Ardrossan which is usually the root cause of all the cancellations because its too exposed and hard to get into when the wind is up. Nobody seems bothered about investing the money to sort that out or giving up and going somewhere more sheltered.

      I hope the new Brodick terminal is being built with bunks to accommodate all those people who will still end up stranded in Arran.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      Jerry McIver June 16, 2016 1:51 pm Reply
  • So the new ferry on the Ardrossan-Brodick route is either 2018 or 2019

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    Scott Smith June 16, 2016 4:15 pm Reply
  • I see in the Oban Times that the Edinburgh banker wants a transcript or recording of the call where Calmac told him they were moving Coruisk back to Mallaig. I can’t imagine Calmac recording all calls and certainly not having someone sitting transcribing them.

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    Lundavra June 16, 2016 4:38 pm Reply
    • What a foolish thing to do, create an audit trail to hang yourself on.
      I doubt anyone in the whole Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, David MacBrayne, Calmac, CMAL cabal is stupid enough to minute meetings or decisions. It would allow someone to apportion accountability if they looked hard enough.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      Jerry McIver June 16, 2016 5:58 pm Reply
      • It’s known that GCHQ record every communication but I’m not sure who would track it down. Maybe they need to call WikiLeaks.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

        Murdoch MacKenzie June 17, 2016 6:33 am Reply
        • Only in minds of the paranoid, I think they have access to call details i.e. what number called what number at what time.

          Of course we don’t know what Sturgeon has SID doing and from their spying on journalists they do not seem to bother about legalities.

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          Lundavra June 18, 2016 7:31 am Reply
    • So you think the Oban Times is credible! Really??

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      Nae Fear Here June 18, 2016 3:15 pm Reply
  • What does uk stand for?

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    Nae Fear Here June 16, 2016 7:25 pm Reply
  • Guys keep it down. Sadly Isle of Lewis said her stern ramp won’t move at Oban linkspan, you know. next winter Isle of Lewis said it was either rebuild ferry or overhaul.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    Scott Smiith June 18, 2016 12:48 am Reply
  • Back at Mallaig nothing seems to change. The LOTI never entered the harbour after her first visit yesterday and spent the rest of the day over at Armadale. I don’t know how this affected travellers as nothing was posted on the Calmac website. She left there at 2200hrs and drifted over to South Uist at 7knts arriving this morning.
    She is now steaming back to Mallaig at her service speed, so unless Calmac tell us what was going on do we just put it down to another of these worse things that happen at sea?

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    Murdoch MacKenzie June 18, 2016 8:40 am Reply
    • There seemed to be several announcements about the Lord of the Isles

      Mallaig – Armadale
      One or more sailings are disrupted
      Friday 17th June
      Lord of The Isles was unable to berth in Mallaig due to high winds [on the 1230 sailing from Armadale], she is now returning to Armadale to offload the traffic. There will be an update at 14:15 regarding the 14:35 sailing from Armadale & 15:20 from Mallaig.
      The following sailings maybe liable to disruption or possible cancellation due to Northerly 25 knot winds at Mallaig.
      From Armadale 14:35, 16:35
      From Mallaig 15:20
      Reason: weather conditions
      Last Updated: 17 Jun 2016 13:38

      Mallaig – Armadale
      Friday 17th June
      The following sailings have been cancelled due to Northerly 25 knot winds at Mallaig.
      From Armadale: 14:35 & 16:35
      From Mallaig: 15:20
      There is a heightened possibility of disruption to all other sailings. A review will be made at 15:30.
      Reason: weather conditions
      Last Updated: 17 Jun 2016 13:56

      Mallaig – Lochboisdale
      Cancelled for the remainder of today
      Friday 17th June
      The 17:30 sailing from Mallaig to Lochboisdale this evening has been cancelled due to Northerly winds gusting over 25 knots at Mallaig.
      Any passengers wishing to travel to Uist should make arrangements for the 18:00 Uig to Lochmaddy sailing this evening.
      Check-in will be 17:15 at Uig.
      Please contact us on 0800 0665000.
      The 07:00 sailing from Lochboisdale on Saturday 18th June will operate as normal.
      Reason: weather conditions
      Last Updated: 17 Jun 2016 14:24

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      Lundavra June 18, 2016 12:30 pm Reply
      • Where are you copying all that from?
        I noticed on the AIS that she was doing circles from lunch time, this was probably about tea time last night as I was out all day, so I opened the Calmac website and there was a green tick showing that services were not affected. Do they do that in the event of a cancellation as soon as the departure time has passed?

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        Murdoch MacKenzie June 18, 2016 1:44 pm Reply
        • Ships of Calmac, look as if they are copied from the website or Twitter (or both).

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          Lundavra June 18, 2016 5:43 pm Reply
        • From my wait for the Tiree ferry the other week, I wish they had a way of communicating with the drivers queuing. Not very efficient for the chap on the quayside to have to go around every car and takes ages.

          A low tech white boat at the front of the queue would be better.

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          Lundavra June 18, 2016 5:46 pm Reply
  • Are the vehicle hoists and side ramps still operational on the LOTI and indeed on the Hebridean Isles? I can’t remember ever seeing a picture of them in use. Have they ever considered using them when these Northerly breezes are putting the RoRo berth beyond her capability.
    I’m not sure though if there is another quay at Mallaig that is long enough to get alongside.
    Continuing with this service next year will be an utter folly, send the LOTI to Craignure and get the Coruisk back on the Skye service. Use the spare small ferries to expand the service from Barra to Eriskay, and the Isle of Lewis can do another three runs a week to Oban.
    The Clansman’s Barra via Tiree run can go to LochBoisdale instead and that will give them a direct run once a week for the regular freight traffic. It might be possible to run two other overnight runs a week as well. The following year when the Hebrides gets released from Uig she can move to Lochboisdale and run to Oban until a better port can be built to feed South Uist.
    They need to think about building a couple of Coruisk style vessels to meet demand at Skye and Mull. Mull just needs one large ferry for the winter months, smaller units are suitable for the summer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Murdoch MacKenzie June 18, 2016 5:43 pm Reply
  • Clansman said his barra via Tiree run can go to Lochboisdale that instead of it and will give them a direct run once a week and for all and for the regular frieght traffic. it bet the wrong ferries up about Lord of the isles and Coruisk. sent Lord of the isles to Craignure and get Coruisk back on the skye service and Isle of Lewis said it do another three runs a week to Oban. oh well. lets do something different. and no said Murdoch i wont.

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    Scott Smith June 18, 2016 11:06 pm Reply
  • Coruisk as a second vessel on the Oban-Craignure route summer 2016 summer 2017 summer 2018 and summer 2019.

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    Scott Smith June 18, 2016 11:07 pm Reply
  • you know what I do not have the same thing it bet Coruisk is the best ferry service and the other routes are the only way. Isle of Lewis said it would be nice on the Oban-Castlebay route. Bring Coruisk back in the skye oh well isle of mull on the Oban-Craignure route.

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    Scott Smiith June 19, 2016 6:36 pm Reply
  • Ah! Well! “All the way to Inverness for a chicken”, I see Calmac are getting a real engineer to the striken LOTI over in Lochboisdale.
    From their Grimm Tales,

    “We are sorry for any disruption caused to customers during this time.

    The Rolls Royce engineer has arrived from the Netherlands and is on his way to the ship. We will be able to provide an update in the next two to three hours.

    Reason: technical

    Last Updated: 21 Jun 2016 16:02”

    I hope they’ve got this right. Maybe they were told to get an engineer with RoRo experience and one of their desk admirals thought they meant Rolls Royce.

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    Murdoch MacKenzie June 21, 2016 4:55 pm Reply
    • Well, the Flying Dutchman seems to have pressed the right button and she’s back to work tomorrow morning, that’s if the wind and tide let her get in to Mallaig, fingers crossed.
      I wonder if the problem was with that new fuel saving system that they were all getting fitted at this years dry-dockings?

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      Murdoch MacKenzie June 21, 2016 8:47 pm Reply
  • So that on the Oban-Craignure route there are two ferries during summer and one during winter.

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    Scott Smith June 26, 2016 3:57 pm Reply
  • On the Oban-Craignure route MV Isle of Mull & MV Coruisk During summer and MV Isle of Mull on her own During winter

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    Scott Smith June 28, 2016 10:17 pm Reply
  • and next summer 2017 bring Back MV Coruisk review the skye ferry on the Mallaig-Armadale route. MV Isle of Mull is on their own on the Oban-Craignure route.

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    Scott Smith November 25, 2016 12:32 am Reply
    • If a second ship was added to the Craignure route because the Isle of Mull couldn’t cope with the traffic, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when she’s on her own again.

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      Robert Wakeham November 25, 2016 4:25 pm Reply
  • what, A two vessel route Isle of Mull & Coruisk on the oban-Craignure route this summer and next summer.

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    Scott Smith November 25, 2016 11:01 pm Reply
  • I see the Heb Isles has returned to Cammel Lairds. She left there on the morning tide with destination Oban but she’s spent all day dodging off the coast and has gone back in on the tide and is now going back into the outer basin. She’s supposed to be taking over a route tomorrow, I wonder if it’s Craignure? The LOTI was meant to come back to South Uist/Mallaig at the weekend and Isle of Arran would have moved to Oban with the Heb Isles doubling up on Islay. I hope the Isle of Mull is not booked in at another dock or there could be contract problems if she can’t be released.

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    Murdoch MacKenzie November 29, 2016 11:06 pm Reply

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