Ferries restored for islanders but threat to services still remains

Cancellations between South Uist and Oban/Mallaig had been due to begin on Wednesday for five weeks.

Ferries restored for South Uist islanders but threat to services still remains iStock

Ferry services have been restored for thousands of islanders in time for Easter in an 11th hour CalMac U-turn.

The national ferry operator announced last week that no ferries would run between the mainland and South Uist for more than five weeks due ongoing delays in dry dock and technical issues.

Services between Mallaig/Oban and Lochboisdale on South Uist would face cancellation between April 5 and May 13, CalMac has said.

However, on Tuesday, just one day before the cancellations were due to begin, the operator said services will continue to run between April 5 to 16.

The U-turn has been attributed to a delay in the commencement of the overhaul of MV Finlaggan.

These services will be operated from Oban by MV Isle of Mull and a reduced timetable will be in operation on April 16.

It is current unclear whether services from April 17 to May 12 will be possible as the MV Isle of Mull is set to replace the MV Loch Frisa on the Oban to Craignure route while the ship completes its annual overhaul.

Robbie Drummond, CalMac chief executive, said: “Our service continues to be affected by delays to the annual overhaul schedule and its subsequent impact on vessel deployment.

“We apologise for the disruption this is causing, particularly at the start of the tourist season.

“We are focused on returning vessels to service as soon as possible and returning to a normal service as quickly as we can. We will continue to work with community representatives and will keep customers informed of any developments.

“We are in the process of contacting customers who were previously impacted and will continue to keep customers updated on progress. It is hoped the booking system will be updated and available for new bookings from April 4.”

Additional daily services to the Sound of Barra have been made available to provide a connection for Uist traffic.

Transport minister Kevin Stewart added: “Following my engagement with CalMac last week, I’m pleased that they have undertaken further work on possible vessel deployment options and identified a solution that will enable the Lochboisdale route to continue to operate until at least April 16.

“I’ve asked CalMac to carry out further work on alternatives beyond that date and look forward to them outlining those plans as soon as possible.”

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