This week the Ferry Committee had a very productive stakeholder meeting in the Isle of Mull Hotel (great sandwiches, thank you!). With us were regional, port and timetable managers from CalMac; several representatives from the Ferries Unit of Transport Scotland; and officers from Argyll & Bute Council in charge of piers and harbours. We were there to discuss our long-standing campaign for an island-focussed service, where the ferry is routinely berthed in Craignure over-night. This would give us earlier departures and later returns all year round, much like we enjoy in the summer when the Coruisk is berthed at Craignure.
CalMac are supportive, but in order for it to happen Craignure Pier needs to be improved – and that is in the hands of Argyll & Bute Council. However, as well as being necessary to enable an island-focussed service, pier improvements are also urgent for two other fundamental reasons:
a. CalMac have a ‘no bump’ policy in operation due to the age and condition of the pier. This leads them to be more cautious in windy conditions and is contributing to the late running and increased cancellation rate.
b. From the summer of 2020, the Coruisk will be swapped for a different boat – possibly the Hebrides or the Isle of Arran. One of those two (or the MV Isle of Mull) will then have to over-night in Craignure every night during the summer. For that to be possible, the Pier needs urgent improvement.
We are therefore pressing Transport Scotland and Argyll and Bute Council to move ahead with pier works urgently. We were very pleased with the response from Transport Scotland, who left with a detailed impact assessment we have prepared with much help from many individuals, businesses and organisations across Mull. Transport Scotland have promised to consider our case for timetable improvements as part of the bi-annual timetable review which will be shortly underway, and we are keeping both the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse and our MSP Michael Russell, fully briefed.