It has become clear that the Loch Frisa single vessel timetable will need to be significantly re-worked, in order to maintain lifeline connections for Iona. As currently proposed, Iona residents have very limited ability to visit Oban, have useful time there, and to return the same day. For the many Iona residents concerned about connections, be assured that we are stressing to CalMac that your core connections must be maintained.
Its been a long wait, but just seven weeks before they are introduced, we have now been given drafts of our new winter timetable for Craignure-Oban. Or we should say timetables – because there are several of them.
The delay in producing the timetables has predominantly been a result of efforts to overcome the planned closure of Uig for much of the winter. During our meeting with Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth last month, she was candid in saying that the delay was due to her refusing to sign off on the timetables until Transport Scotland found a less disruptive solution than the planned 24 weeks closure. That issue appears to now be resolved.
This is also of course our first winter with a two vessel service. The timetable is much busier than previous years, with many more sailing options. But it has to be said that the picture is not all entirely positive, with some retrograde steps and complexities that are the result of berthing clashes, over-haul schedules, slower steaming and longer turn-around times.
Over-all the picture is positive however, with some significant service improvements thanks to the introduction of the Loch Frisa.
We have a very short window to get your feedback
Winter timetables for other islands will be published in the next few days, but there will be a short delay to enable Mull and Iona to respond to these drafts. But we have a very short time to do this. We need to respond to CalMac with all our comments early next week, so in turn we need to ask that if you have any comments or requests regarding these drafts you please email them to us, or comment at the bottom of the post no later than 12 Noon on Sunday 11th September.
There are three separate timetables that will operate at different times of the winter depending on vessel availability. Of the 23 weeks of winter service, we will have a two-vessel service for just over half the time, or around 13 weeks. There will be approximately seven weeks when the Loch Frisa operates on her own, and 2.5 weeks when the Isle of Mull is our only ferry.
During those periods when we have two vessels in service, whichever vessel is paired up with the Loch Frisa (either Isle of Mull or Isle of Arran) may be called away to assist with breakdown cover. In these circumstances, the Loch Frisa will revert to operating on her own, and has the ability to put on extra runs if required.
Below is the two-vessel timetable that will operate on the yellow dates above. Beside it is the 2019/20 winter timetable for comparison (the last ‘normal’ winter before schedules were adjusted due to Covid). We have noted some specific problems that will need to be fixed, mostly concerning train connection times.
Following that is the Single Vessel Loch Frisa timetable, and then the single vessel timetable operated by the MV Isle of Mull in March. We’ve also summarised the key pros and cons as we see them. Feel free to comment on both the timetables and our summary – we want to know what you think.
The Craignure-Oban timetable and the Iona-Fionnphort timetable have to be co-ordinated to ensure connections. When the Craignure-Oban timetable changes, the Iona timetable will have to change with it. Below are the corresponding Iona timetables.