**Updated** Transport Scotland beginning to take action on vehicle space issue.

**Update: See the communication from CalMac at the bottom, issued on 11th August. It makes it clear that local residents will be exempt from the new rule that excludes Motorhomes/campervans from standby queues.**

We have been pushing Transport Scotland to address the difficulties that islanders have in accessing vehicle spaces on our main bookable route to Oban. Island representative groups from across the entire network have been urging for changes to the booking system, and yesterday we received confirmation of some small immediate changes, and longer-term efforts to introduce more equality of access. The first immediate change is that from next week, motorhomes and campervans will not be able to board from the un-booked queue ahead of other vehicles. Here’s the full text of what Transport Scotland wrote yesterday (with some emphasis added):

The removal of physical distancing from 9 August is a positive step in releasing additional passenger capacity, however we recognise this has minimal impact on vehicle deck capacity.  We also recognise the pressure on vehicle deck capacity on a number of routes on the network.  It is of course not unusual for there to be pressure points in the peak summer months, and as you know we are working to address this through our vessel replacement programme in the longer term.  The demand at particular points this summer is intensive, due to the timing of emerging from Covid restrictions, pent up demand and increases in domestic tourism.  While the CHFS contract doesn’t currently allow the operator to discriminate between categories of travel (on the principle of everyone being treated the same), we have introduced Turn Up and Go passenger capacity (which will no longer required from 9 August due to the return to full capacity) and the Urgent Medical Appointment Protocol to try to partly address the short notice travel needs of islanders. 

We are alive to your point about the differences between tourists and islanders in their ability to forward plan and advance book.  There is a real challenge in balancing utilising all our assets fully, supporting the tourism industry on which many islanders rely, and preserving the option for islanders to travel freely at short notice.  We are exploring short-term options with CalMac that could potentially be introduced.  This includes considering motorhome fare levels and demand management measures, options to providing greater access for islanders (eg. phased opening of capacity), and any opportunities provided by the new ticketing system [being introduced next year].

In the meantime, we are pleased to confirm that from the start of next week, CalMac will restrict motorhomes/ caravans (defined as any motorhome vehicle regardless of size that has sleeping/cooking facilities or caravans of any length) from standby queues. 

CalMac release of August 11th 2021:

Following discussions with Transport Scotland and island stakeholder groups, motorhomes, campervans and caravans will no longer be accepted in standby queues for CalMac sailings. 

The change is being introduced with immediate effect to prioritise passengers who may need accommodation and to ensure that deck space and capacity is used more efficiently. It is intended as a permanent change – however, it will continue to be reviewed and feedback will be welcomed. 

Standby queues are available on all bookable CalMac routes and give passengers without a ticket the chance to board if there are spaces left once all booked passengers have been processed. 

Island residents who travel with a motorhome, campervan or caravan will be exempt from this decision and will continue to be allowed to use the standby queue, if they have proof of residence. 

On non-bookable routes, all traffic will continue to be processed on a first come, first served basis. 

Finlay MacRae, Head of Operations for CalMac, said: “To prioritise customers without alternative accommodation and to optimise deck space at the end of loading, motorhomes, campervans and vehicles towing caravans will no longer be given a standby or waitlist position on all bookable routes – either at the reservation stage or on the day of sailing. 

“Restricting larger vehicles in standby lanes will allow us to make the best use of any remaining space for smaller vehicles, whose occupants may not have alternative options available for accommodation. It will also remove the issue of larger vehicles filling up standby lanes, and smaller vehicles having to be pulled out of car lanes if that is all that can be shipped at the end of the loading process. 

“This does not apply to motorhomes, campervans and vehicles towing caravans that belong to island residents who will continue to be able to use standby options. Island residency will be confirmed at the point of booking or point of application to join the standby queue and can be evidenced with a proof of address from a utility bill or similar.” 

Motorhomes/campervans/caravans are defined as containing the following as per DVLA Motor Caravan registration:   

  • Sleeping Accommodation: The bed must be an integral part of the vehicle living accommodation area.   
  • Door: There must be a horizontal sliding door or an outward opening rear or side door. 
  • Seats and Tables: Permanently secured seating must be available for use at a table. 
  • Storage: The cupboard must be an integral part of the living accommodation area.  
  • Cooking: The cooking facilities must be a permanent feature. 
  • Outside: The vehicle must have at least one side window. 
  • The vehicles V5 logbook will have the vehicle registered as a Motor Caravan. 


Affected routes: 

  • Ardrossan – Brodick 
  • Ardrossan – Campbeltown (seasonal) 
  • Kennacraig – Islay – Colonsay  
  • Oban – Colonsay  
  • Oban – Coll – Tiree  
  • Oban – Lismore  
  • Oban – Craignure 
  • Oban – Castlebay  
  • Mallaig – Armadale  
  • Mallaig – Lochboisdale – Oban 
  • Uig – Tarbert (Harris) – Lochmaddy  
  • Ullapool – Stornoway  
  • Berneray – Leverburgh (Sound of Harris) 
  • Ardmhor – Eriskay (Sound of Barra) 

For non-bookable routes, all traffic will continue to be processed on a first come first served basis. 

14 thoughts on “**Updated** Transport Scotland beginning to take action on vehicle space issue.

  1. We live on Iona and our only vehicle is a VW T4 campervan. Does this meet that although residents on the islands still traveling on the Craiginure route for essential last minute journeys. Will not get be able to turn up and go ?

    1. This is an example of how fixed rules don’t address all cases fairly…. We will ask that locally-owned motorhomes get some allowance on this. I’m sure local staff in Craignure will be accommodating, but we will try to get some formal easement for your kind of circumstance.

      1. Will the same apply to islanders regarding possible price increases on motor homes and camper vans? Our only vehicle is a VW T6 camper. It has the same wheelbase size as a car. If, as islanders, we are affected by this, we will be severely limited in the amount of journeys we take…which is pretty discriminatory. Will islanders be exempt in these circumstances?

    2. We are in the same situation David. We live in Tob. Also a bit worried about proposed price increases for motor homes and campers. If we have to pay significantly increased prices, we will be unable to use the ferry regularly. Need to press for exemptions for islanders with small vehicles like ours

  2. We are islanders and our only vehicle is a VW camper T6. We regularly use the standby queue. Cant there be a small change in that islanders in vans are not pushed out by other vehicles? I know of at least 2 other islanders in the same position as us.

  3. We are islanders with a VW T6 camper as our only vehicle and frequently use the stand by queue. Can you confirm that we, as islanders, will still be able to do this. Additionally, should prices fir large motor homes be increased, will this also apply to us, as islanders with a vehicle whose wheelbase is similar to many cars

  4. Hi, we fall into the same category, vw camper our only means of transport and Mull residents. Do you need to think about a residents badge/pass?

  5. Hi, as a Mull resident whose only transport is a VW campervan this news is worrying. The assumption that non residents can be identified by the vehicle they drive is very lazy thinking. I wholeheartedly agree with what you are trying to achieve but there has to be a fairer way of doing it.

  6. Mull and Iona ferry commitee 7th August 2021 — 4:57 pm

    In reply to the comments above from campervan owners – we have already responded to Transport Scotland, and suggested that when the new unbooked lane rule is introduced, it applies only to campervans who’s journey has originated on the mainland, or they use some other means of identifying island residents to whom the policy should not apply.
    On the point about potential fare changes – there will certainly be a need to identify island residents, so that differential fares can be fairly applied. This will be made easier when calmacs new ticketing system is introduced next year.
    We will always argue for fair treatment for island residents, whatever they drive!

  7. As with others I am concerned about campervans owned by locals being moved to the back of the line.

    Additional where is the line drawn as well? With many people self converting who makes the call what is a van and what’s a campervan. Will vo5s be required?

    Regarding price increases I presume these will apply to just motorhomes rather than campervans with motorhomes typically being much wider and longer?

    1. Totally agree with the size issue. Most small camper vans take up less space than a car.

  8. I live in Tob… my only form of transport is a VW Camper, does this mean that I’m to be discriminated against, both on price and access to the ferries..???

  9. Regarding the concern that island-resident drivers of campervans will be negatively impacted. – Transport Scotland have responded and have confirmed that CalMac will devise a simple solution to identify island residents, and the rule will not apply to them. Likely to need proof of residence with you. Details to be confirmed, but rest assured that there is a solution.

    1. Great news.

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