Ferry compensation calls as disruption caused by CalMac 'mayhem' revealed

Routes with most cancellations or late arrivals detailed by Scottish Lib Dems

Ministers have been urged to compensate ferry users for the “mayhem” that saw more than 13,000 Caledonian MacBrayne services cancelled last year, with some key routes seeing thousands of scheduled crossings scrapped.

The figures were obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats and they accused the Scottish Government of leaving people “adrift” amid the ongoing problems and controversies across the nation’s ferry network, as it released data detailing the ten most unreliable routes operated by CalMac. However, CalMac described the claims as “completely misleading” and “unfair” on its staff.

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A freedom of information disclosure obtained by the Lib Dems found the worst impacted route was the Gourock to Dunoon crossing, which suffered from 2,963 cancelled sailings during 2022, with 66 services arriving late. It was followed by Ardrossan to Brodick crossing, with 873 cancellations and 997 late services.

Close behind was the Largs to Cumbrae sailing, with 857 cancellations, and 581 late arrival. There were 993 cancellations and 305 late services between Mallaig and Armadale. Across CalMac’s network, there were 13,828 cancellations llast year.

Willie Rennie, communities spokesman for the Scottish Lib Dems, said: “These figures show that it’s a roll of the dice whether your lifeline service will be late or cancelled. This means local people losing business, missing events and struggling to get to critical medical appointments.

“Ministers should be compensating people for the mayhem they are causing, but they are point blank refusing. Instead, the SNP and Greens sit idle while government-owned Ferguson shipyard shells out tens of thousands in bonuses to bosses.

“The Scottish Government must finally invest in the ferry network and put together a long-term strategy for replacing boats which have been in use for decades.”

The MV Hebridean Isles has been out of action since February. Picture: Mn28/Wikimedia CommonsThe MV Hebridean Isles has been out of action since February. Picture: Mn28/Wikimedia Commons
The MV Hebridean Isles has been out of action since February. Picture: Mn28/Wikimedia Commons

It comes after CalMac announced a five week delay to repairs to a key vessel. The MV Hebridean Isles was expected to return to the Islay route in early June. The 38 year old ferry has been out of service since the middle of February due to problems with its propellers.

Robert Morrison, CalMac’s operations director, said: “These claims are completely misleading and are unfair on our hardworking staff. We have operated 199,768 out of 206,951 scheduled sailings since January 2022, a success rate of 96.5 per cent, which shows that our service is reliable.

“We operate in difficult waters and poor weather and tidal conditions remain the most likely reasons a ferry will be delayed or cancelled. It is therefore disappointing that the Lib Dems take no account of sailings cancelled to ensure the safety of passengers and crews during bad weather.

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“Providing lifeline services to communities is our top priority and while this year has been particularly challenging, we are investing record sums of more than £43 million to maintain the fleet in 2023.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has invested more than £2 billion in our ferry services since 2007 and we have outlined plans to invest around £700m in a five year plan to improve ferry infrastructure.

“Since May 2021, we have bought and deployed an additional vessel in MV Loch Frisa, chartered the MV Arrow and MV Alfred, commissioned two new vessels for Islay, progressed investment in essential harbour infrastructure, and now we are delivering a further two new Islay-class vessels.”



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