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By Hugh Boag
Demands have been made for all ferry bookings to be cancelled to prevent Arran from being considered for visiting with Easter just a week away.
With visitors being actively discouraged from coming to the island and the number of sailings cut on the main Ardrossan to Brodick route it is hoped that keeping the island in lockdown with slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
But there are concerns that could change next weekend leading the Arran Ferry Committee asking CalMac to cancel all advance bookings to ensure the Easter holidays don’t see a lot of visitors turning up at Ardrossan with ferry bookings and expecting to get over.
It came after blow this week that there are now multiple confirmed coronavirus cases on Arran, emphasising the need for everyone to follow government advice.
A spokesman for the ferry committee said in view of this there was even more reason for people not to travel. He said: ‘If I were planning to come over and prepared to chance travelling I would perhaps be less inclined to do so if I knew my ferry booking was cancelled.
‘Anyone requiring to travel on essential business who didn’t have a prior booking is required to ‘turn up and go’ so why would anyone who booked in advance be treated differently and be allowed to retain their booking?
‘The AFC’s position on this is clear and have requested that all advance bookings should be cancelled to give a clear position. Only essential travel should be allowed and the port staff have guidelines as to what the covers.
‘Anyone booking so far in advance cannot confidently have anticipated ‘essential travel’ conditions.
‘The easiest and clearest way is to come out and announce that all bookings are cancelled and anyone requiring to travel will need to provide evidence and that puts everyone of an even footing,’ the AFC spokesman said.
A CalMac spokesman said: ‘All bookings should have been cancelled for non essential travel. If someone turns up looking to come over for the weekend they won’t be permitted to board.
‘Unfortunately we don’t have any way of cancelling bookings as the purpose of the trip is not specified on the booking, for example we won’t know what is an essential booking and what is not.’
The ferry committee spokesman added: ‘If that is their stated position why don’t they publish that on their website with a very clear message?’
Managing director Robbie Drummond has confirmed to the CalMac Community Board that staff are enforcing strict essential travel rules and are seeking evidence of island residency or key worker status for all customers.
‘Our staff have been instructed to call the police in the event of any dispute but this has not been required to date. Our experience is that customers are abiding by the guidance and well prepared to evidence this,’ he added.
Over the last few days CalMac traffic for passengers and cars has dropped to around 5 per cent of normal demand and commercial traffic to around 60 per cent.
The ferry committee have also highlighted that to suggest a utility bill will indicate a primary residence is inappropriate, as these are available to all households, not uniquely principle homes. They have now asked CalMac to take this up with Transport Scotland.
They say the current position leaves a potential imbalance in favour of those who planned ahead and also could leave the guidelines open to interpretations, as we have seen already with friends and family now located on Arran.