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Capacity on the MV Caledonian Isles has been tripled as a result of new distance rules on public transport and some hard bargaining from representatives on Arran.
The main ferry on the Ardrossan to Brodick route now has a capacity of around 300 per sailing, which is still significantly below its normal operating capacity of 1,000 and less than the 50 per cent capacity island tourism businesses said they required.
However, it is a significant improvement, although concern still surrounds the small numbers of between 60 to 80 which can be accommodated on the smaller MV Isle of Arran, – it is hoped numbers may increase on both vessels in the weeks ahead.
The Isle of Arran Ferry committee met on Monday to review progress on ferry capacities following recent announcements that public transport could move from two metre distancing to 1m+.
AFC have been in constant dialogue with CalMac, Transport Scotland and Scottish Government ministers.
The meetings have been focused on providing the maximum capacity in line with health service capabilities and to provide for community and economic viability for Arran.
Provisional numbers had been discussed prior to the government announcement and, in line with the directive, increased capacity numbers were introduced to the booking system, beginning on Friday July 10, together with an extension of the booking window from 14 days to four weeks.
To assist with capacity, 25 external seating tickets will also be available for turn up and go but will be weather dependent and allocated at the skipper’s discretion.
Further discussions with AFC then agreed a further increase which will provide 276 internal seats and increases the potential of the Caledonian Isles to three time the phase one level. These improvements have made a significant difference to the availability of sailings.
The capacity is being released with 80 per cent available to online and advance bookings with 20 per cent retained for ‘turn up and go’ travel as the community starts to travel for personal and business needs.
A change to the system has also been agreed, which now provides those who wish to ‘turn up and go’ a confirmed returned sailing assuming capacity is available. This removes the uncertainty in the previous arrangement which only issued single tickets.
These arrangements will be monitored to establish the demand for this service.
CalMac also added the Isle of Arran to the service ahead of the timetable changes, which came into effect on Wednesday. The timetable now operates 18 sailings a day Monday to Saturday, with 14 on a Sunday.
Services via Lochranza and Claonaig also resumed this week, with vehicle passengers required to remain in the vehicle. This also allows for foot passengers to be accommodated. All of this is estimated to provide capacity for a similar number of passengers as was carried last year with a more focused timetable.
A spokesman for the ferry committee said: ‘We would advise anyone intending to travel to check with the CalMac website for availability. Recent changes have improved availability and the new procedures for turn up and go should reassure them of return travel.
‘All arrangements are being undertaken with support from Arran Recovery Group and North Ayrshire Council chief executive Craig Hatton.
‘AFC will continue to discuss opportunities to improve these services as experience and government road map announcements allow. Further meetings are being planned for next week with CalMac and Transport Scotland and we will provide updates via social media and through The Banner.’
CalMac managing director, Robbie Drummond said: ‘With island accommodation open for business again and a further expansion of our timetable today we look forward to welcoming visitors on board while maintaining all efforts to keep passengers as safe as possible while travelling with us.’
Cars and passengers come off the MV Caledonian Isles in Brodick this week. 01_B29capacity01