Ferry committee is fighting to improve ‘lifeline’ services

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Only a handful of members of the public turned up to the Arran Ferry Committee (AFC) AGM on June 25 at Cladach, the only public meeting they hold each year.

The ferry committee membership is nominated annually from the various bodies represented to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive representation of island views, including: Arran Community Council, voluntary sector, haulage, tourism, business, NFU, NHS, economic croup, public transport independent travellers and North Ayshire councillors.

Meetings are regularly supported by CalMac and other bodies attend as required, and their participation is appreciated.

At the meeting chairman Iain Thomson reported on the significant work which had been carried out over the year and acknowledged the support from Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson, who attended the meeting, to assist in facilitating meetings with senior political representatives.

This year included meeting with Michael Matheson MSP Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity who met with the committee on Arran in July of 2018. The committee also met with Paul Wheelhouse MSP on several occasions to highlight the continued reliability and resilience issues around the ageing fleet and the negative impact this was having for residents and business travel arrangements.

Mr Wheelhouse, the minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, acknowledged the situation and indicated he was working on several approaches to help resolve the position. This resulted in additional 89 sailings being provided which was welcomed. There is an ongoing commitment to work with AFC to improve and develop the longer-term plans for both Brodick and Lochranza routes.

The latest meeting again provided examples of the impact the poor service was having and the lack of capacity due to the delay in the delivery of new vessels. Further funding is now provided to CalMac to help resilience servicing.

The AFC has consistently been requesting an expanded service from Lochranza for both summer and winter timetables but, due to availability of vessels and the crewing requirements, this has not been possible. An opportunity for an extended service was recently rejected due to the impact it would have on other routes that did not want to lose their services but were supportive of our proposal to expand the northern services.

AFC also work with other island routes to present a united approach to developing the services all year. Other factors covered include the waiting list which was removed and subsequently re-instated following challenges.

Issues with connectivity with road and rail services feature regularly and discussion has been initiated for the future service to ensure that, when we progress to a two boat timetable, it will be supported with appropriate services.

The problems with the PAS have been highlighted and CMAL’s chief officer attended AFC meeting to explain the corrective actions planned and some of the causes which had not been evident in other ports using similar equipment. Many interruptions were related to warranty issues on the new equipment. He also explained the limitations in providing central handrails due to building regulations and safety concerns.

AFC are providing inputs to the Ardrossan Task Force to ensure residents’ needs are being considered and that ‘lessons learned’ from the Brodick development are reflected in the new designs etc being prepared.

The chairman concluded by confirming that the AFC will continue to work with all relevant bodies to improve and develop the ‘lifeline’ services for Arran on behalf of all sectors of the Arran community.