CalMac in second ferry return pledge but capacity worries remain

The MV Isle of Arran arriving in Brodick.

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The MV Isle of Arran is due to return to service on the Arran route on Tuesday, which will bring much needed capacity to summer ferry service.

This was confirmed to members of the Arran Ferry Committee at a virtual meeting on Monday where they were supported by re-elected MSP Kenneth Gibson and senior representatives from CalMac.

The MV Isle of Arran has missed the first three weeks of the two ferry Ardrossan to Brodick summer timetable as it was redeployed to help on the Ullapool to Stornoway route, badly affecting the tourist trade.

Key discussion at the meeting was around the availability of capacity with many sailings, particularly at weekends, already pre booked. Until social distancing rules change our capacity is seriously limited. We have asked that regulations be reviewed to ensure consistency with other transport providers.

AFC had agreed at the April meeting that, due to the low uptake of short demand, we would accept a trial period to move to allow 10 per cent of the capacity for foot passengers to be reserved. Unfortunately, we were advised that the discussions with CalMac and Transport Scotland had resulted in a change which allocated eight places per sailing on the Caledonian Isles due to the low take up of last year across the network.

This was robustly challenged and CalMac will review this decision specifically for the Arran services. The demand will be monitored, and any revision will be based on this analysis. We would encourage anyone who wishes to travel at short notice but cannot get a booking in advance to contact the port office and register their need.

It was confirmed that the process for medical appointments has not changed and residents should not be impacted by these changes. Any local residents requiring travel to attend medical care should use the process introduced last year where they can travel as foot passengers and will be provided with a taxi to their destination and return to the ferry terminal. The fares will require to be paid by the passengers at time of travel, but cost will be reimbursed by CalMac.


The question of resilience was also discussed at length with CalMac and our MSP with demands that additional capacity must be sourced and soon. We will request a meeting with the new Minister whenever the position is announced and seek commitments that vessels or crew are provided to ensure a reliable and capable service which meets the demands of their customers.

A decision is awaited on our request to route Friday sailings to Campbeltown via Brodick which will add capacity at peak time.

AFC have met regularly through the Covid restrictions to represent the views of the community and, as social distancing restrictions continue we have agreed to postpone their AGM until later this year when we anticipate it will be possible to have an open meeting. They will publish a date as soon as regulations allow.

CalMac also confirmed to the Banner this week that the MV Isle of Arran would return to service on the Brodick route as planned on Tuesday.