Scottish island communities are 'suffering', with more than 7,000 ferry cancellations in first half of year

Island communities in Scotland are being left to “suffer” due to high levels of ferry disruption, it has been claimed, with new figures revealing there were more than 7,000 cancellations in the first half of this year.

The Liberal Democrats have hit out at the Scottish Government’s handling of Scotland’s ferry services as figures reveal the extent of cancellations and delays on key rural routes.

Figures obtained by the party through a Freedom of Information request revealed a total of 7,431 cancelled sailings between January and July.

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The cancellation rate has already passed figures for the whole of 2018, where there were 7,156 cancelled sailings.

CalMac vessels have been hit by a host of cancellations in the first half of this year. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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Cancellation rates for the whole of 2020 and 2021 are higher, with 7,434 and 9,351 respectively.

Ministers have faced scrutiny in recent months over the construction of the MV Glen Sannox and the as-yet-unnamed Hull 802, which are due in service next year – five years behind schedule – and are projected to be two-and-a-half times over-budget.

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The Isle of Arran route from Ardrossan to Brodick, which will be serviced by the Glen Sannox vessel, had already experienced 990 cancelled or late sailings in the year up to July 31.

And there have been 302 cancelled or delayed sailing on the Uig route to Tarbert or Lochmaddy, which will be covered by Hull 802.

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CalMac have said the challenges to conducting maintenance and repairs are caused by global supply issues.

Meanwhile, an opposition debate led by the Scottish Conservatives will be held in Parliament tomorrow .

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It comes after figures revealed the number of technical faults with CalMac fleets has steadily increased since 2017.

According to Freedom of Information figures obtained by the Tories, there were a record 163 faults recorded last year, compared to 90 in 2017, costing approximately £28 million to fix.

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And there have been 141 faults recorded as of the end of July 2022, figures show.

It comes as concerns were raised earlier this month that island harbours will be unable to take in and operate the two delayed vessels.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP has condemned the “mismanagement” from the Scottish Government.

He said businesses and families were struggling to access vital resources including medical care.

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Mr Rennie said: “The SNP are letting our island communities suffer, as they continue to mismanage Scotland’s ferry network. These figures are yet more proof of that.”

Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: “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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The company has introduced preventative measures including setting up a single centre of excellence for spare stock and increasing capacity to carry out root cause analysis.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson: “The vast majority of CalMac ferries run on time and to schedule, but breakdowns and delays are not acceptable. That’s why we’ve invested to provide additional capacity on the Clyde and Hebrides routes. We are also continuing to work on procuring more vessels, while the four new ferries we have ordered are being built.”

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