Arran MSP ‘hugely disappointed’ as disrupted summer sailings start

Kenneth Gibson MSP - SNP - Cunninghame North Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

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The MV Isle of Arran began work on the summer timetable sailings to Arran as scheduled on Thursday.

However, it only completed two return sailings between Brodick and Ardrossan before leaving for Port Ellen to help out on the Islay route and will not be back until Saturday.

As was first announced last week, Arran will have to share the vessel with Islay until later in May owing to the loss of the MV Clansman which is in out of service due to problems with the vessel’s propulsion system and which is having a knock on affect throughout the network.

While repairs are being undertaken in Denmark, MV Hebrides – which was supposed to enter dry dock for its annual maintenance – is being pressed into service for a further three weeks.

However, Caledonian MacBrayne now hope to have all services, including the Arran summer timetable, operating as normal by May 23 and all customers booked to travel up until that date should by now have had their travel arrangements confirmed.

‘We originally thought this temporary timetable would be until the end of May but I’m pleased we will be aiming to bring this forward by a week, meaning normal service should be resumed before the Islay Whisky Festival,’ said managing director Robbie Drummond.

‘Staff are working overtime to reassign bookings on to the amended timetable and deal with new customer reservations. The most important thing for our customers is that they know with as much certainty as possible that the journey they are booked on will run, we are working pretty much round the clock to provide that certainty,’ he added.

However, Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson has expressed his disappointment with the CalMac fleet reshuffle which has led to the reduced summer services on Arran. The start of the Ardrossan to Campbeltown summer service has also been postponed.

Mr Gibson said: ‘This is hugely disappointing. There is a lack of flexibility in the system, with dry-docking in Birkenhead and no ‘spare’ vessel capacity. Transport Scotland tried last year unsuccessfully to secure vessels from Denmark and Norway. However, the only long-term answer is to commission the building of more vessels and I’ll press the Scottish Government on that issue. The last vessels to be built, MV Catriona and the Glen Sannox were for Arran. Nevertheless, a larger fleet is now required, if we are to avoid this situation in future.’

In an earlier statement Mr Drummond said: ‘We are facing a highly regrettable situation that we need to manage as best we can with the vessels we have. Our priority is to continue to provide lifeline service to island communities.

‘The overrun of our annual vessel dry dock schedule into the summer season is regrettable and we realise that this set of circumstance is going to impact adversely on some communities which we apologise for. However, under the circumstances, the timetable arrangements we have now put in place for the period of disruption are the best options we have available.’

‘With one major vessel down, it is always a difficult balancing exercise and we know there will be communities who believe they are taking more than their fair share of upheaval. However, this is the best short-term solution we have within our current operating limits.’

Passengers are being urged to check the CalMac website at calmac.co.uk to confirm the amended timetables before travelling.

The MV Isle of Arran in Brodick arrived in Brodick this week to begin the disrupted summer timetable sailings. 01_B17summer01