Disruption ‘unacceptable’ says ferry committee

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The Arran Ferry Committee is the main island voice for all ferry related matters with direct access to all agencies involved in delivering ferry services. Here chairman Iain Thomson gives an update on their work  and their efforts during the recent troubled days.

‘As we start a new year with an unacceptable and regrettable disruption to the ferry services we wanted to provide an update on the work which we continue to be involved with in representing all the ferry users covering residents, business, health care and other groups on the island and off.

‘Our membership is elected annually from the third sector, community council, visitor organisations, business, haulage, health and social care, economic group, North Ayrshire Council, Stagecoach and independent traveller representatives.

‘Our members have been in communications with the service operators during the various interruptions and communicating the local situation and feelings whilst trying to identify options to minimise the impact and assist the inconvenienced users.

‘We are actively following up with the operator to get answers to the recent disruptions and challenge all aspects of service including: timing of annual maintenance schedules, deployment of appropriate vessels to cover the demands and the outdated booking and ticketing systems, decision making and other service related topics.

‘The wider problems around replacement vessels and ports are also being followed up but with recent revisions to the delivery dates we need to understand the opportunities to ensure service needs are met, the actions which will be introduced to optimise the existing resources and what contingency plans can be applied.

‘With the breadth of the membership we collect feedback and demands from the whole cross section of services and users which are essential to the sustainability for the ‘quality of life’ of residents etc. Our challenges are based on a collection of data to demonstrate the demand or changes in services experienced.

‘We continue to work with all levels of service providers administrators and political representatives.

‘Over the past year we have met with the Islands Minister and the Labour transport representative to enforce the views that the current service is entirely unacceptable, and the solution requires top level cross-party agreement for actions plans and investment commitments.

‘We have also met with the head of CMAL and senior representatives with Transport Scotland to seek changes which will instil commercially recognised practices to the operation.

‘These discussions continue with supporting data which is collected from various sources.

‘The planned development at Ardrossan is also a regular discussion item and AFC are represented on the Task Force. Recently Transport Scotland have published responses to a range of questions which have been submitted on behalf of the community. Further engagement sessions are being planned.

‘Minutes from all our meetings are published and available to read on the community council website. http://www.arrancommunitycouncil.org.uk/records.php#FerryMinutes

‘Our members also provide updates to the groups they are elected to represent and associated groups who express an interest in transport issues. Our last meeting of 2019 was attended by CalMac’s managing director Robbie Drummond and he was questioned on service and performance trends. He also confirmed that in his discussions with other groups representing ferry matters they had brought no new topics to their attention.

‘Our first meeting this year will continue the search for improved contingency planning and make a contribution to identify solutions to ticketing etc with the project leader responsible for the proposed new system attending.

‘Our activities are aimed at identifying improvement opportunities on behalf of all users and the development of contingency measures to be put in place when disruptions impact the service.’