CalMac’s managing director has said staff are “deeply sorry” about ferry disruption in recent days after the MV Hebrides was removed from service following an issue with its firefighting system for the second time in a week.
The vessel returned to service on Monday morning after being in Greenock for repair.
Services to several key Western Isles routes were cancelled last week with the MV Isle of Mull being redeployed to cover the shortfall.
Island communities have repeatedly voiced their frustration about disruption to the ferry service in recent months.
Robbie Drummond, managing director at CalMac, said the MV Hebrides’ route was now getting back to normal.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Clearly customers are really upset about the latest disruption of last week and everyone at CalMac is deeply sorry for what they’ve been going through.”
He added that CalMac wanted to encourage people to see the “brilliant scenery” of the Western Isles.
However, Mr Drummond said that passenger numbers were down by around 50% compared to 2019 figures.
Ferry customers also faced disruption on Saturday as “hundreds” were left “stranded” on Arran after a vessel was unable to sail due to a rope trapped around its propeller.
One passenger told STV News on Saturday: “Passengers are being told they won’t get their cars off the island leaving families looking for accommodation because they can’t get off.
“The smaller vessel is running but it can only take foot passengers because the Caledonian Isles is docked where the cars board. It happened on the busiest day of the summer because the Arran Highland Games are on.”
When it was put to Mr Drummond that there was not enough resilience in the ferry network, he said: “There’s no lack of effort or money being invested in short-term resilience.
“Our spending has increased by 70% (over the) last five years, from £21m to £34m this year.
“But what we really need, and you’re right, is that long-term investment program.
“Because that’s what will give the islands the service they need, and one that we can all be proud of.”
He said he expected the service to remain challenging for the next year but problems would ease in the coming years when new vessels are introduced.
Two ferries being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow were expected to have been completed by 2018 but have since been delayed until at least 2023.
Costs for the two CalMac vessels have more than doubled from the £97m price tag.