PASSENGERS on six CalMac routes will have more frequent sailings from next summer, transport minister Derek Mackay announced today.
Some sailings on the Scottish Government-owned firm’s west coast routes will also see capacity increases.
New direct daily sailings will also be introduced between Oban and Barra, using a larger ferry, and daily return sailings between Lochboisdale in South Uist and Mallaig.
The extra sailings will include 50 more a week between Oban and Craignure - the main route to Mull - by drafting in a second ferry, which will make the island commutable for the first time.
There will also be 10 per cent more sailings on the route between Mallaig and Armadale in Skye.
Ferry capacity will also increase by around one third on sailings to Coll and Tiree, and Colonsay.
The extra capacity will be provided by deploying the Isle of Lewis, which previously sailed between Ullapool and Stornoway, on the Barra and Lochboisdale routes.
The proposed improvements follow a review of the ferry network, and to accommodate an expected increase in traffic when lower fares are spread to all CalMac routes next year following trials on certain routes, including to the Western Isles.
These will come ahead of two new 1,000-passenger ferries being introduced from 2018, with even larger and faster vessels planned to follow them, as Scotland on Sunday has revealed.
Mr Mackay said: “This enhanced timetable offers a number of improvements.
“Proposals include increasing capacity on certain services, offering more sailings and reorganising vessel deployment to get the most from our ferry fleet.
“It will also help manage the expected increase demand from the full roll-out of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), which gives island residents and visitors access to significantly reduced fares.
“These measures underline the Scottish Government’s commitment to essential ferry services for the communities that rely on them, and will ensure our islands remain attractive and accessible to visitors.”
CalMac director of operations Drew Collier said: “Listening to our customers is central to the service we provide.
“This enhanced timetable answers many of the questions we have been getting asked about how we could better tailor our services to suit the needs of the communities we serve.”