Ferry capacity over the summer.

The shape of the ferry service over the next few months is starting to emerge. There is a lot of detail, so let’s do this in bullet-points –

  • A new timetable is planned to start on July 1st. Oban – Craignure will increase to 5 returns per day; Fishnish Lochaline will increase to 11 per day; Tobermory – Kilchoan to 3 or 4 per day, and Fionnphort – Iona to 7 per day (plus requests).
  • From 28th July, the Coruisk should re-enter service, and add approx 5 returns per day to Oban-Craignure. This will take the number of sailings to around 70% of a normal summer. This is the maximum that can be achieved, whilst allowing time for slower turnarounds and more cleaning between trips. However….
  • …. Vessel capacity will be dramatically reduced on the major vessels (Coruisk and Isle of Mull), due to social distancing requirements:
  • The MV Isle of Mull will only be able to carry a maximum of 104 passengers, compared to her normal maximum of 962.
  • The Coruisk’s foot passenger capacity is unknown, BUT, she does have permission for vehicle passengers to remain in their cars during the crossing, so the number of cars (+ occupants) she can carry should be little changed from normal.
  • Car capacity on the open vessels working Lochaline-Fishnish and Tobermory-Kilchoan will also be unchanged, since passengers can stay in their vehicles. Foot passenger capacity will be reduced, but this should have little impact.
  • Passenger capacity on the Loch Buie (Iona) will be reduced to 28 (plus any car occupants)
  • ALL services will be bookable for vehicles, even those that normally aren’t.
  • FOOT PASSENGERS will need to book too.
  • Some space will be left un-booked, available on a turn-up-and-go basis.

Some key issues are problematic or contrary to the outcome of last week’s survey, and we have written to CalMac, Transport Scotland and Government Ministers to try and get improvement (most critical issues relate to Transport Scotland and Government Policy, and few are CalMac’s decision) . The central problem is the very low passenger limit on the MV Isle of Mull that will make travel very difficult.

  • Only inside spaces on the MV Isle of Mull are being counted when assessing how many people can be carried. We are asking that outside spaces be included, as per our survey outcome.
  • We believe the booking system being proposed for foot passengers will be problematic, and may make travel more difficult, not easier. Turn-up-and-go (with priority travellers called to the front of the queue), will enable more of the vessel capacity to be used, and make it easier for priority passengers (residents, essential workers, school children, etc) to travel. This was also the system preferred in the survey.
  • We’ve asked that Lochaline-Fishnish and Tobermory-Kilchoan remain as turn-up-and-go services, instead of becoming bookable.
  • We’ve asked that the 2 metre social distancing rule be scientifically re-assessed specifically for ferries, and measures such as face coverings, hand sanitisers and ‘sneeze screens’ between tables be considered as mitigating measures.

If you’d like to read our detailed submission you can download it below. If you have any questions or queries, or have a viewpoint or concern regarding our ferry service that you want us to hear, please get in touch.

11 thoughts on “Ferry capacity over the summer.

  1. I don’t agree that Lochaline to Fishnish service should return to normal, ie non booking. With the vast restriction on number of passenger spaces available on me Isle of Mull, I can foresee masses of people choosing to use Lochaline/Fishnish, resulting in chaos, with queues all the way to Corran. This would cause unwanted problems for Calmac staff, and traffic police. The same applies to Kilchoan to Tobermory route, with the miles of single track roads on both routes.

    1. There are a few considerations:
      1. If total ferry capacity is insufficient for the likely demand, there will need to be a decision at government level to decide which types of traveller can use the service. Regardless of whether the service is bookable or not, this prioritisation should reduce the number of peoiple trying to use the ferry system to a volume it can accommodate.
      2. If F-L becomes bookable, then staff will need to sort the booked traffic from the non-booked – that needs space and staff that isn’t in place at either end.
      3. If the service is bookable, it will need to stick to timetable. If non-bookable, it could react to queuing traffic by running a continuous shuttling service (as is already done at peak times like the rally). So by being non-bookable, it should be able to carry more traffic.
      4. The service is generally under-utilised in summer – there is spare capacity.
      5. There is a long-standing policy that on short routes like this, if vehicles are left behind at the end of the day, an extra run is laid on. The same policy would ensure that no-one is left stranded.

      1. Extra run for stranded travellers can mean some CalMac staff (eg engineers who check systems before 1st sailing) working 6am to 9pm by the time boat “put to bed”.

  2. We still have a booking for September from Oban wondering if pre booking get first pick for crossings..

    1. The booking arrangements are complex and not confirmed so far as we understand – so hold tight and wait to see what CalMac tell you. They are in a very difficult position on bookings, because they will have reservations for sailings that can no longer take place, and have to figure out a way of reallocating them. So I think you’ll need to be patient for now.

  3. Travelling on the ferries are the mask and glove going to be compulsory as buses trains etc have to as stated at FIRST MINISTERS Questions today .

    1. Face coverings mandatory on ferries from Monday 22nd

  4. Will foot passengers who then have to travel onwards by public transport for hospital appointments (which may be at short notice and with return time uncertain – one or two nights away) be able to travel? I’ve been alerted that I will be called soon and will need to give a quick answer or lose my slot.

    1. CalMac are already prioritising travellers with medical appointments, of course. There will certainly be no change to that, regardless of what system is in place.

      1. Thankyou Joe

      2. Thank you, Joe. Had to defer appt offered in Glasgow Monday as public transport/overnight accommodation not possible.

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