Frustration as ferry is pulled off Arran route

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There was widespread frustration at the weekend when Arran lost the services of the MV Isle of Arran due to disruption elsewhere on the network.

At a busy time it left visitors struggling to reschedule ferry bookings on busy MV Caledonian Island sailing as islanders too were forced to make hasty rearrangements.

And the Arran Ferry Committee (AFC) was left asking the question: ‘Why is it always Arran which loses sailings.’

A series of meetings followed involving the Scottish transport minister Jenny Gilruth MSP, Ferries Community Board, CalMac, Transport Scotland and Arran’s representative, Bill Calderwood.

A statement posted by VisitArran said: ‘To say that the AFC are disappointed would be an gross understatement.

‘We have an island community widely affected, an economy suffering greatly due to visitors not knowing what is happening, and commercial supplies essential to the island trying to get over.

‘Following the debacle with MV Caledonian Isles in April, we had been advised several contingencies would be considered and indeed were under way. To date, I am appalled to say none of them is any further forward.’

The problems began when North Uist’s MV Hebrides struck a pier last Wednesday night, resulting in vessels having to be shuffled around to provide a lifeline service for the affected routes.

Compounding the situation for Uist residents and CalMac was the added difficulty of South Uist’s boat, MV Lord of the Isles, having to be withdrawn from service the day before for essential repairs which left islanders without any ferry service.

On Arran, owing to the reshuffle of vessels, MV Isle of Arran was redeployed and MV Caledonian Isles was left to deal with a single vessel timetable.

The loss of capacity on the Arran route impacted visitor numbers and hill runners who were scheduled to take part in the Goatfell Hill Race and who had already experienced ScotRail disruption owing to strikes. A total of 108 runners, out of 146 booked entries made the event.

On Thursday, CalMac issued an amended timetable, reducing the service to one vessel which was expected to continue until today (Friday).

But in a surprise turn of events, repairs on the MV Hebrides were completed on Sunday which allowed for the vessel to return to Islay and MV Isle of Arran to return to Arran late on Tuesday afternoon.

During the service disruption, CalMac deployed a second vessel to assist with capacity on the Lochranza to Claonaig route on the north of the island, however, this route was subject to tidal restrictions and is not favoured by travellers as it involves a lengthy detour at both ports, adding considerable time and fuel expense.

CalMac further advised passengers that if their journey was re-routed as a result of the disruption between Ardrossan – Brodick, and if they incur additional mileage costs, they will reimburse mileage, and that all applications would be investigated on a case-by-case basis.

A CalMac spokeswoman said: ‘This was a significant disruption for our communities, and we sincerely apologise for this at what was already a very difficult time for them.

‘We are extremely grateful for their support and understanding as we dealt with the loss of two vessels.

‘Our port teams continue to work closely with customers to ensure that their travel plans are accommodated over the coming days.’