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Below is a reply from Caledonian MacBrayne to my letter published in the Banner on Saturday October 6 and my response. This dialogue is important if we, as islanders, are to retain a good lifeline ferry service
Dr Sally Campbell,
GDPR to blame
Dear Dr Campbell,
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding our process for wait-listing car reservations. Please allow me to respond to your concerns.
You are correct that obtaining car spaces is becoming more demanding with each year that passes. The introduction of RET has certainly benefited island communities, with record numbers of passengers travelling each year. Nonetheless, with car carryings continuing to increase, this has placed additional demand on each and every sailing. In particular, Arran continues to see record growth. Since the introduction of RET, Arran has seen carryings increase by almost 16 per cent, with 205,000 cars shipped during 2017.
In previous years, we did operate an informal wait-list at Brodick. This involved the local manager using a book to record wait-listed passengers for the heavily utilised 08.20 sailing. However, given the implications of the new GDPR legislation, we cannot hold passenger details in such an informal manner. Furthermore, as part of the new Clyde and Hebrides contract, we cannot differentiate by sales channel. In other words, all customers should have equal access – on a first come, first served basis – to our booking inventory. The Brodick book was only accessible to those who contacted the port in person or via phone.
However, we do appreciate that having a wait-list facility would benefit passengers. Indeed, some routes on the CalMac network already allow this. Please rest assured that we are currently exploring all possible options to assess this for the Ardrossan-Brodick route, and are working continuously to try to find solutions that will benefit all our passengers.
CalMac Ferries Ltd.
Dear Mr Drummond,
Thank you for your email of October 17. Several further questions arise from your explanation and information.
In your letter you confirm that across other parts of the fleet the wait-listing facility is available, so why not on the Ardrossan-Brodick route? What is preventing this?
This is a lifeline ferry service, so why is there no extra service potential for full-time Arran residents, such as a wait-list book? We are all aware tourists are booking well in advance. Your numbers confirm what we already observe: ‘Since the introduction of RET, Arran has seen carryings increase by almost 16 per cent, with 205,000 cars shipped during 2017.’
If the objective of the ferry service is purely economic and not a lifeline, tell us. Arran will become less desirable as full-time residents find their freedoms being curtailed and more and more second homes/renting options/Airbnb replace them.
This is already becoming a huge social and community issue for the island and, although I do not expect CalMac to solve this issue alone, the way the ferry service is run is part of the story that must now be of concern to service providers of all sorts.
As full-time residents, we do not always know weeks in advance when we need to travel to the mainland for such things as hospital appointments, important meetings, essentials shopping or family emergencies. I find your statement: ‘As part of the new Clyde and Hebrides contract, we cannot differentiate by sales channel. In other words, all customers should have equal access – on a first come, first served basis – to our booking inventory’, bodes ill for the future.
The Brodick book was only accessible to those who contacted the port in person or via phone and therefore gave local residents at least a chance. Clearly, as a lifeline ferry for the full-time residents of Arran, CalMac’s publicity makes great play on vital island services.
‘Scotland’s various ferry services are a vital lifeline for island residents’, says VisitScotland, and the First Minister has said she is ‘determined’ to improve ferry services to Scotland’s island communities in the wake of widespread concern over reliability (The Herald, September 13, 2018).
The Ardrossan Harbour Taskforce, reported in TransportNetwork on April 10, 2018, as having identified its preferred design option for the harbour upgrade, which aims to improve the facility’s operations and resilience ahead of the introduction of a new, larger ferry. In the report, North Ayrshire Council leader Joe Cullinane welcomed the decision ‘alongside our partners on the working group, we have been working hard to ensure Ardrossan Harbour is of a standard which will allow it to support to lifeline ferry services and the new vessel on the Arran route for many years to come’.
Last week, The Arran Banner records CalMac’s award as Ferry Operator of the Year 2018 at the National Transport Awards, ‘providing a first class customer experience’. I note you added: ‘Our core market is lifeline services we provide to communities across the area, but the popularity of our services with visitors is growing year on year.’
You mention that the wait-list book is a problem and non-viable since the introduction of the GDPR legislation. If we, as customers, are willing to provide information and confirm it can be listed by written hand in a book held at the terminal for staff to read, how can it be against the law? Clearly, for many full-time resident islanders, it is a positive alternative to having no chance of a car booking on a certain date and time. Do full-time island residents no longer deserve a true lifeline ferry service?
Since RET was introduced, tourism has exploded on Arran. Full-time resident islanders begin to feel that their needs are being discounted in the rush to ‘increased economic opportunity’. The island’s ability to attract and retain full-time residents, whether born on the island or incomers, is paramount for wider services to continue, be they medical, schooling, social services of all sorts and commercial. It is vital that CalMac consults with the wider community on what lifeline is now coming to mean. Too many options purely for growth in numbers on the ferry and visiting Arran is not an option if it discounts the importance of lifeline ferry for the full-time resident islanders.
I would like to invite you to Arran to come along and discuss with all interested parties in the community what this term ‘lifeline ferry’ actually means today and how our service could better respond to that term in the future.
I fully appreciate that the major issue that I am raising here demands attention more in the political arena of transport operating policy in Scotland than in simply delivering an efficient ferry operating service.
Dr Sally Campbell,
An enormous thank you to the guy who works at the Whiting Bay hardware store. At 4pm last Friday, I was getting into my car when the ignition keys slipped from my grasp and fell into a drain.
To my horror, the drain was sealed in the tarmac and all I could see beneath the bars of the culvert was a well of dark and impenetrable water. As an English woman of middle years, holidaying on Arran and therefore a ‘stranger in a foreign land’, I feared the worst: stranded, car-less and just as the working week was coming to an end.
In desperation, I went to the hardware store in Whiting Bay. There I met a chap with a plaited grey beard. Without hesitation, he unpacked a telescopic magnet and patiently dredged and probed the inky blackness.
After a little while the tool was retracted with my keys firmly attached. I was so relieved! My hero was self-effacing and firmly rejected any reward. He was a proper gent and upheld the true tradition of Arran’s obliging and helpful nature.
South Milford, York.
As we move into flu season, it is time for people with asthma to protect themselves against the flu virus. New analysis by Asthma UK reveals that around one million Brits with asthma are at risk because they are not planning to get the flu vaccine – even though eight in 10 people with asthma say flu is a top trigger for life-threatening asthma attacks.
That’s why Asthma UK is urging people with asthma to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible to reduce their risk of catching the virus and prevent a life-threatening asthma attack.
The flu virus can increase the inflammation in the airways so they can become narrow, leaving people coughing, wheezing and gasping for breath. This increased inflammation also means people are more likely to react to other triggers, such as pollen or pollution, increasing the chance of an asthma attack. Every asthma attack is potentially life-threatening with around three people dying from one in the UK every day.
Unfortunately, there are lots of myths about the flu jab not working, causing side-effects or causing flu, and our research shows this is preventing people from getting it. But the vaccine can’t give you flu, the potential side-effects are minimal and it could save people’s lives by preventing a life-threatening asthma attack.
We are urging people to get the facts about flu so they can make an informed decision by visiting asthma.org.uk/flu
Dr Andy Whittamore,
Clinical Lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP.