Our long-running campaign (which started in earnest in 2015) to achieve an Island-Focussed ferry service between Oban and Craignure, has reached a significant juncture. Over the past four months we have stepped up our lobbying of Transport Scotland and CalMac to produce a timetable for next winter that would extend the sailing day, and enable a full 8 – 9 hours on the mainland every weekday. This would mirror the length of service we now have in the summer months (ever since the MV Coruisk was added to the route).
Both the MIFC, Transport Scotland and CalMac would prefer the island-focussed service to be delivered by berthing the MV Isle of Mull in Craignure over-night. This has proved impossible in the short-term, due to the design and condition of Craignure Pier, and the inaction of its owners (Argyll and Bute Council).
Whilst we await the outcome to the Craignure Pier STAG report and the possibility of improvement works, WE HAVE ACHIEVED THE SUPPORT OF TRANSPORT SCOTLAND TO COMMIT ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO THE ROUTE. These funds would enable extra crew and an increase in operating hours that could give earlier departures from Mull and later returns (whilst still berthing the ferry in Oban over-night).
CalMac have proposed a timetable that can be achieved within the increased funding that Transport Scotland can allow within their current budget. Below you can download that proposed timetable.
Whilst we are delighted to have got the support of Transport Scotland and the Islands Minister (Paul Wheelhouse MSP), what is proposed does not fully match our hopes for what an island-focused service could achieve. There are both significant benefits and compromises in this proposed timetable from CalMac. However, we believe we must give it a full airing and offer it to the communities of Mull and Iona to consider and let you decide. We have been granted a deadline in early April, before which we need to ascertain whether this timetable has the support of both Iona and Mull. Please therefore have a close look at what is on offer and compare it to our existing timetable (which will continue if you decide against the new proposal). Then you may vote for which timetable you want for next winter using an online survey (link at the bottom).
To help you judge whether it would be an improvement for you or not, alongside the timetables there is a list of pros and cons as we see them. We have split them so it is clear what the different impacts will be for each island and each timetable.
PLEASE READ THE PROS AND CONS ATTACHED TO THE TIMETABLES CAREFULLY. AS STATED ABOVE, THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT DISADVANTAGES TO WEIGH UP BESIDE THE ADVANTAGES.
Once you are ready to vote, please complete the survey. We will count the votes of Iona and Mull residents separately, and the timetable will only be accepted if it gains majority support from each of the two islands individually.
We are also making this information available in public places across the islands, and if you’d rather not complete the survey online, do please contact us directly.
Before you scroll down to read the timetable, there is one further important piece of news:
Transport Scotland and the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse have agreed that they will take forward discussions with us with a view to amending the current Scottish Government Policy for Mull ferries as defined in Ferries Plan, and approving NEW FUNDING FOR A SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVED WINTER TIMETABLE IN 2020/21. This would need approval in the government’s annual budget process this summer, and IF AGREED AT GOVERNMENT LEVEL COULD RELEASE SUFFICIENT FUNDING TO ENABLE THE FULLY ISLAND-FOCUSED SERVICE WE HAVE LONG ADVOCATED. Because this is a decision that would need to be taken at government level and requires a change of policy, it will not be possible to achieve this for the winter of 2019/20. We are guided to be optimistic about the prospects of budget approval. We therefore have the best opportunity yet to achieve a truly island-focused service, that exceeds what is offered in the proposal below. We will continue to work with Transport Scotland on it over the summer. IT IS OUR HOPE THEREFORE THAT WHETHER OR NOT YOU APPROVE THE PROPOSAL BELOW, IT WILL BE SUPERSEDED IN 2020/21 BY SOMETHING SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER.
Download the timetables here:
All votes must be submitted by midnight on April 12th.