Call to improve ferry services in Scotland following disruption

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There are calls to improve Scotland’s ferry services after a report indicated there were more than 70,000 delays or cancellations in just over a decade.

Figures obtained through a freedom of information request suggested a total of 34,124 sailings on 29 routes operated by CalMac have been delayed since October 2007, with 39,314 cancellations.

The number is equivalent to around 117 sailings per week during that period.

The worst affected routes include those running between Ardrossan to Brodick and Wemyss Bay to Rothesay.

In a debate at Holyrood, the Scottish Conservatives raised concerns over the provision of ferry services.

Jamie Green MSP said: “Our criticism is focused squarely at the door of the Government, which after a decade in office, has yet to deliver a sustainable, fit-for-purpose fleet and network of ferries in Scotland.

“Enough simply is enough. For too long, the Scottish Government has ignored repeated warnings from the industry. The public are sick and tired of the disruption, of the delays and of the cancellations.

“They were promised new vessels, they haven’t arrived. They asked for one type of vessel and they were delivered another. They were promised their needs would be put first and instead, they’re queuing for hours on end to get a ferry home.”

The Scottish Government has added eight new ferries to the CalMac fleet since 2007, with a further two new vessels commissioned, representing an investment of £215 million.

An additional vessel has also been committed by the Scottish Government to serve the Islay route, with £62 million in harbour investment made to the Clyde and Hebrides network since 2013.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “We’re delivering, but it will take time to deliver in full.

“I do understand the very real challenges that are faced as a consequence of service disruption.

“I’m determined we must get this right and in addition to closely monitoring operational performance, we are developing an action plan with our ferry operators to ensure appropriate measures are in place to improve the customer experience when things do go wrong”.

Labour MSP Colin Smith added: “It’s no exaggeration to say Scotland’s ferry network provides a lifeline for communities.

“Poor planning and investment by the Scottish Government that is not meeting growing demand means our ferry network is not fit for purpose despite at times, the quite heroic efforts of staff to keep those ferries going”.

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