Transport Minister Keith Brown announced the project today, saying: “The Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan outlines our ambitions for ferry services across Scotland over the next decade with enhancements on the Oban-South Uist and Oban-Barra routes coming on stream this winter.
“In addition to those enhancements, I am acutely aware of the strength of feeling from local communities that we look closely at providing a service on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale route. We have listened to those views and we are acting.”
He said the move follows detailed analysis of the availability of vessels across the Clyde and Hebrides routes and, over the next three winter periods, the feasibility of the service will be tested on a trial basis.
He added: “The MV Lord of the Isles has been identified as the preferred vessel and the service, which will be fully evaluated and reviewed at the end of the three year trial run, will operate two days a week - one day midweek and one day at the weekend.
“We have been working hard to enhance ferry provision on all ferry services to Barra and South Uist for the coming winter in line with our ferry plan commitments and to finalise details with the operator.
“I am sure today’s news will be warmly welcomed by local communities and I would encourage use of the additional sailings which will be made available.”
Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac Ferries, said: “We are pleased to have been able to assist Transport Scotland in making this trial service possible. We look forward to welcoming ferry travellers when the service starts in November.”
The pilot will run this winter starting in mid-November through to early April with a short three week break in February when MV Lord of the Isles is unavailable due to refit cover elsewhere in the network.
Barra will continue to have sailings to and from Oban, both direct and via Lochboisdale. Lochboisdale will continue to have sailings to and from Oban, both direct and via Castlebay.
The route will be served by MV Lord of the Isles which is the only large ship in the fleet which can reliably berth in Mallaig.
Caledonian MacBrayne representatives are planning to discuss with local community representatives the detail of the service next week.