CalMac staff taken to 'brink' amid ferries fiasco as compensation payments to public soar
Staff at Craignure on the Isle of Mull, have spoken out about ongoing pressures given the reduced service of MV Mull, the main ferry serving the Oban route.
The ferry has been deployed elsewhere in recent weeks to cover the backlog of repairs to the operator’s ageing fleet which has caused serious and sustained disruption.
Staff at Craignure, in a message to islanders posted on social media, said that no additional bookings would be taken on the Craignure to Oban ferry before May 29 to help clear the backlog of travellers whose journeys had been cancelled.
It also called for travellers to show the same levels of “love and appreciation” shown to staff at Craignure to those at Oban amid claims of “horrendous” treatment of colleagues on the mainland, who have been left “on the brink”.
The statement said staff wanted to keep islanders updated on the "current fiasco” with bosses invited by staff to work on the frontline and witness the impact of the situation.
It added: “There will be no additional bookings taken for travel before the 29th on the cra -oba (Craignure to Oban) route. This is to allow us to clear the poor people that have been displaced from sailings that haven’t been informed and rebooked.”
Passengers trying to turn up for a space on the ferry will be turned away and sent to Fishnish or Tobermory.
The statement added: “Oban port are under the axe too at the moment. Please treat them with the same amount of love and appreciation you've shown us. Some of the reports we have had from how they are being treated are horrendous. We here at Craignure are literally coming to work to help our community not Calmac. Oban don't have that luxury of community spirit and this whole debacle has put them on the brink.”
The MV Mull has been redeployed to cover the service from Mull to Lochboisdale in South Uist for the past week and will move to a reduced timetable to and from Oban from today (Sunday).
It comes after the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, which represents passengers, demanded Transport Minister Kevin Stewart make an “emergency intervention” given the loss of capacity on the key route.
Meanwhile, it has emerged compensation paid to CalMac passengers rose to more than £450,000 last year as the number of cancelled ferry services reached its highest level for at least five years.
The payments, which can cover meals, accommodation and alternative transport for passengers, rose from £261,000 in 2021-22 to £454,000 in 2022-23.
The ferry operator cancelled 11,301 journeys in 2022, with a further 5,781 sailings arriving late.
Willie Rennie, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, which obtained the figures through Freedom of Information legislation, said it was now a “roll of the dice” if lifeline services were late or cancelled with more than one in 10 ferries not arriving as scheduled.
He said: "This has a real world impact. Businesses can't get the supplies they need and families are struggling to get to critical medical appointments.”
CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond said: "We take our responsibility to provide a reliable lifeline ferry service very seriously and work hard to avoid disruption. We recognise that disruption to services due to breakdowns and technical faults is extremely challenging for local communities, and we sincerely apologise to those affected when this happens."
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