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20/01/2015

CalMac update on plans for MV Loch Seaforth and Ullapool linkspan works

Following the meeting of the Stornoway-Ullapool Taskforce set up by Transport Minister Derek Mackay last week, senior managers at ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) have been refining their plans for services during the Ullapool linkspan works and deployment of the MV Loch Seaforth.

Managing Director Martin Dorchester said: "The delay to the completion of MV Loch Seaforth and the subsequent delays to the Stornoway Harbour works have been immensely frustrating for everyone and especially for CalMac, as operator of the MV Loch Seaforth, as we had fully expected that by this stage she would have been operating for more than six months and any teething problems or operational challenges would have been well and truly ironed out.

"As it is she has still to be properly tested on this route, and although we have been using this time as productively as possible with further commissioning, crew familiarisation and induction trials, experience with other new vessels shows that the real test of her capabilities can only begin in earnest when she has entered service.

"Some time has been saved by this work but everyone should be aware that when she does enter service it will be on a phased basis, shadowing the MV Isle of Lewis until we are absolutely satisfied that all is well. As previously indicated the MV Isle of Lewis will also be retained on the route as a back-up once she does fully enter service."

"With regard to the ongoing concerns about her capacity we can only reiterate what we said in March last year that our own audited figures show that the pinch points are focused on peak sailings at the height of the season, and that there is ample capacity at other times. In addition the new ship is larger and there is scope for switching some traffic to the overnight sailings, so we are confident that we can cope with the expected demand.

"There may be other options available if demand can be demonstrated. The retention of the MV Isle of Lewis will provide additional capacity, but these options would require further consultation especially if additional funding was required, and, in the meantime, we must be given time to properly assess her capabilities.

"The ongoing delays in finalising dates for the harbour have also prevented us opening bookings but I am pleased to report that in light of the dates agreed at the Taskforce meeting we can now progress with this and the majority of the sailings, with the exception of those during the linkspan works, will be available from late tomorrow (Wednesday). Senior CalMac managers are meeting community representatives this week to set out the timetable options and a finalised timetable will be published as soon as possible after that."

"While the works will unavoidably add to journey times for those travelling with a vehicle, we are providing significant extra capacity, so getting space should not be a problem except on a very few peak sailings.

"It is also important to stress that this is a temporary closure which will last five weeks and we should not lose sight of the fact that it will greatly improve reliability and resilience on this lifeline route for many years to come so is actually a very positive step forward."

Ends
For further information, contact:
David Cannon
Public Affairs Manager
(Tel 07595 092332)

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