With winter dry-docking plans and even some vessel availability uncertain over the coming winter, CalMac are still unable to commit to finalised winter timetables. In normal times, winter timetables would have long-since been published, but this year (like last) they will not be released until close to their start dates. They are working to the assumption that the Hebridean Isles will not be back in service this winter (she is entering dry-dock again for another attempt to fix her pitch-control issues that have kept her out of service for around 8 months now), but the hope is that this time the remedy will be found. The new Glen Sannox will not be in service until next summer, and there is no news yet on whether the charter of the Alfred (Pentland Ferries’ catamaran operating between Ardrossan and Brodick) will be extended into next year.
Uig will be closed again from October 30th through to December 11th, which will place additional strain on the system. As was the case during last winter’s closure, the MV Isle of Mull will be called upon to help provide cover. The MV Arrow has also been chartered to help cover the Loch Seaforth’s dry-docking, which overlaps with the Uig closure.
With so much still up in the air, CalMac say their intention is to have the winter timetables (that take effect from October 23rd) available for booking in ‘early October’. The timetables will hopefully be published for viewing sometime in September.
Our central request for this winter was that we should not again have a single-vessel service operated by the Loch Frisa on her own. She is simply inadequate for the role, without enough space or speed. However, we have been told that can’t be delivered, and the Frisa will operate solo for ‘broadly similar’ periods as was planned last winter. Here’s a reminder of how that turned out:
We started last winter with the intention of having a single vessel service for 69 of the 157 days of winter (44%). It ended up being 93 days (60%). So this year we should expect something similar, with Loch-Frisa-only for about half of the winter. Quite when those periods will fall we won’t know for a few weeks yet, when CalMac are able to finalise their vessel plans. But we already know that the IOM will be leaving to provide cover elsewhere just after the rally, whilst the summer timetable is still in place. It’s likely therefore that the first half of November will be Loch-Frisa-only.
So whilst we don’t know when each timetable will apply, the detail of each will be pretty much the same as last year. The Loch-Frisa-only TT is unchanged. When paired with the Isle of Mull, some small tweaks of 5-10 minutes have been made to some sailings to improve public transport connections.
CalMac consultation on the ‘Route Prioritisation Framework’
You may have read about a consultation that CalMac is running, regarding proposed changes to the way in which they decide how to allocate vessels during times of disruption. Some aspects of what is proposed are unclear, and we have asked for clarification. As soon as we get that further information we will post it here together with a link for the consultation itself.