Yesterday almost all CalMac ferries were cancelled or disrupted due to high winds. The Lochaline – Fishnish ferry kept going valiantly all day, but in Oban both the Clansman and the Isle of Arran spent the day idle. Countless people had journeys disrupted and had to stay overnight in Oban.
The increasing rate of winter cancellations is one of the biggest issues facing our service, and it is one we have persistently been pressing with CalMac. It has proven very difficult to get any improvement however, because the causes are complex and in many cases unclear.
Here’s what we are doing to try to get improvement:
1. We are installing a weather station on Craignure Pier, the output from which will be viewable live online. This will give the ship’s Master information that he is currently lacking, to help inform decisions. (unlike most other ports there is no live online weather data). It will also enable us to gather reliable and relevant wind data.
2. We have requested cancellation data for the entire CalMac network going back to 2000. This will enable us to see how our services compare with the rest of the network.
3. We are looking for examples of cancellation trends in other comparable ferry networks, particularly Norway. This will enable us to see how CalMac compares relative to other similar operators.
4. Our chair Elizabeth has this morning written to Robbie Drummond, the Managing Director of CalMac. She has relayed the many local complaints and asked for an urgent response.
5. We have a pre-arranged meeting scheduled for Monday 10th to discuss issues around Craignure Pier with local CalMac management and Transport Scotland. We will be adding Saturday’s cancellations to that meeting.
We know that winter reliability is one of the biggest concerns local users have, and are doing our utmost to work positively to find solutions to this complex issue. Several things are clear:
1. A quick fix is unlikely. There is no one single fault, no one single person to ‘blame’.
2. Most but not all of the potential solutions are CalMac’s responsibility.
3. Individually, all the local CalMac managers with whom we communicate are as keen to avoid cancellations as we are.
We will update you with progress, and the results from those statistics requests. If you have any suggestions, please let us know. Meanwhile, thanks should go to all the crew and staff who keep services running in poor conditions, and all the front-line staff who have to deal with the results of cancellations.