Transport Scotland have asked us for a response to a proposed reduction of sailings “…in the context of current overall demand, continuing travel restrictions, and follows other transport operators being asked to reduce services. “
TS propose to remove three return sailings per week from Craignure-Oban, 18 returns from Iona-Fionnphort, and 9 returns / week from Fishnish-Lochaline. There was no indication of how long these proposed reductions would last for.
We firmly resist further service reductions on the grounds below, and have relayed this back to Transport Scotland.
- There is no evidence whatsoever that the ferry service as operated poses any additional Covid-related threat of itself. On-board procedures are rigorous and well observed. There is also no suggestion that service reduction is needed as a deterrent to un-necessary travel as was the case in the first lock-down. Reducing services is therefore not justified on any public health grounds, and appears entirely cost driven.
- Any comparisons drawn with train services and other mainland public transport is not appropriate. We have no alternative but to use our lifeline ferry service. Mainland travellers have a multitude of public and private transport options that we do not.
- We are already being served with a much-reduced service; we have suffered a reduced service for the past 11 months and our up-coming summer timetable is also significantly reduced in both frequency and capacity.
- The cost savings that might be gained are very small, and particularly on minor vessel routes (eg Fionnphort-Iona) there is no evidence that there would be ANY cost saving. For example, the MV Loch Buie consumes the same amount of fuel each day regardless of how many crossings she operates.
- The number of people travelling may be low, but each one of those journeys is being made for essential reasons. Cancelled services result in missed hospital appointments and failed deliveries. Every one of these scheduled services are essential, lifeline services and must be maintained.
- We already suffer from unacceptably high levels of weather related-cancellations. When so few services are being operated, the impact of weather cancellations is all the greater. Our service is fragile enough already, without further restriction of travel options.
- There is only one month until our restricted summer service commences – additional reduction at this point in the timetable will yield little saving.
- We are on the downward slope of coronavirus prevalence, with vaccinations being delivered at pace and easing of restrictions on the near horizon. There is no logic to service reduction at this late phase of the pandemic.
- This proposal appears to be a reaction to recent press coverage, originating from a trade union. It appears to be reaction to public comment from a particular interest group who do not represent users and are ignorant of the realities and pressures of island life. If the motivation of this proposal is cost saving, we can point Transport Scotland in the direction of vast and chronic waste in the ferry system that would yield savings that would dwarf any short-term and reactionary measure like this.