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All departments at CalMac will return to full normal working hours by the middle of October, managing director Robbie Drummond has confirmed.
CalMac is also planning to increase staffing and extend phone-line resources to help improve response times in their customer support centre in Gourock.
The pledges came at the monthly meeting of the Arran Ferry Committee on Monday night attended by Mr Drummond and Alan Hood, CalMac’s head of customer services. While the two men were on Arran, the meeting was held digitally.
During discussions Mr Drummond apologised for the disruptions Arran has experienced and explained that the ongoing impact of the pandemic had placed significant pressure on all levels of the organisation.
The committee expressed disappointment and frustration at the level of interruptions and the lack of resilience planning which was having a critical effect on the community the service was intended to support. Communications were highlighted as a serious issue requiring urgent improvement.
As well as improving resources at the CalMac customer support centre, the ferry committee requested that the local port staff have additional customer facing resources provided and the call centres also have additional members to cope with the high rate of enquiries.
The planned new booking and ticketing system is still on plan for phased introduction in February 2022 which will provide improved handling for concession tickets and blue badge reservations, including opportunity for multiple ticket purchases as were available previously.
Other topics examined included carriage of livestock, which is being followed up by ferry committee’s NFU representative and CalMac operations and marine management. Information was provided to support recent examples of customers’ frustrations at cancellations and rescheduled sailings. The provision of toilet facilities at Claonaig was also discussed, with CalMac confirming that they are following up with relevant authorities to have facilities available for the start of next year’s service.
Requests were repeated for improvements in the handling of backlogged traffic and poor communications during incidents and commitments were received that these will be followed up.
It was also indicated that plans are in place to relocate the kiosk at Brodick to help address the blockages extending into the village. This should be moved in advance of summer 2022 services.
Mr Hood also confirmed that the potential £10 penalty for late cancellation of bookings will not be implemented without further discussion. Feedback on the catering trials on the CI is being reviewed and any changes will be subject to further discussion.
A wide range of topics were covered which will also inform the discussions with the Transport Minister when he meets with the Arran Ferry Committee later this week.
Both visitors were thanked for their time, and the ferry committee agreed to arrange a date for further discussions.