CalMac slashes ferry sailings by 60% as fares are frozen

CalMac is Britain's largest ferry operator with 29 west coast routes.CalMac is Britain's largest ferry operator with 29 west coast routes.
CalMac is Britain's largest ferry operator with 29 west coast routes.
CalMac ferry sailings to be cut by 60 per cent from Friday to provide an “essential lifeline timetable”.

The annual fares increase was was due to have been introduced today has also been temporarily postponed, ministers announced.

Prices for cars were to have gone up by 3 per cent, and by 2 per cent for passengers, commercial vehicles and coaches.

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The operator’s original plans to continue its reduced winter timetable into the summer season from today have been further scaled back after passenger numbers plunged by 85 per cent in the last few days.

It follows the Scottish Government ordering ferry travel to be restricted to residents and those on essential business to try to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Ferry sailings will be scaled back from tomorrow from the current 2,419 to 948 a week for at least the next three weeks.

The Scottish Government-owned operator stressed sailings would continue on all island routes.

Daily passengers were down from 9,500 to 1,500 and expected to fall further, with the number of cars carried falling by 75 per cent and and commercial traffic by 45 per cent compared to a year ago.

Some 8,000 bookings have been cancelled, with CalMac’s call centre overwhelmed with 5,000 calls a day compared to the normal 800.

Passengers have been urged to use CalMac’s website instead.

New reservations have been suspended until at least 15 July.

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said: “We believe this timetable will be able to maximise use of available crews for the vessels and continue to provide our vital lifeline service for communities.

“These are extreme times for businesses across Scotland.

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“As this virus spreads, there is the chance pressure on crewing may require us to make further changes.

“In this eventuality, we will work to our agreed ‘route prioritisation matrix’ to ensure all islands receive a service.

“Given the lockdown from the [Scottish] Government that has made travel essential only, we think this new timetable is one that best suits the needs of the communities we support.

“Community groups and key hauliers have been consulted to ensure that the supply chains can be maintained.”

Islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said the fares freeze to avert a further burden on businesses.

He said: “Supply chains to and from our island communities are vitally important, so we must continue to support them during this outbreak of coronavirus.

“With that in mind, I am freezing fares on the CHFS network until we are through this challenge.

“This will ensure businesses and hauliers are not placed under any further financial pressure.

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“It also means islanders who must travel for work or medical reasons do not face additional costs.

“It remains the case that people need to avoid all but essential travel by ferry to and from Scotland’s remote and island communities, but this fare freeze will help those that have to make journeys at this difficult time.”



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