Only 16 days when ferry timetables operated as scheduled, stats reveal

Figures indicate that in the last five years, there were just 291 days when sailings ran according to their plan.

Handling of ferry service timetable disruption an ‘omnishambles’, say Lib Dems iStock

The Scottish Government’s handling of ferry service disruption has been described as an “omnishambles”.

It comes after figures indicating that over the last five years, there were just 291 days when sailings ran according to their timetable.

The statistics cover the period between January 1, 2018, and August 31 this year.

In 2022 so far, there have only been 16 days when ferry timetables operated as scheduled.

Of all cancelled sailings, 15% were as a result of technical faults with the CalMac fleet.

The figures were published following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Willie Rennie, the party’s economy spokesperson, criticised the Scottish Government for its handling of ferry services disruption in the country.

“First, we learn that there were nearly 1,000 cancelled or late sailings on the Glen Sannox route,” he said.

“Next, we learn that almost £900k has been spent on customer compensation.

“Now, we learn that there were a mere 291 days over five years when sailings actually operated to their timetables.

“There seems to be no end to this saga. It’s an utter omnishambles, the fault of which sits solely and squarely with the SNP government.”

Rennie pledged that his party would tackle issues across Scotland’s ferry network.

He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats would tackle delays, breakdowns and cancellations by giving the ferry network the funding it has been starved of for years and allowing communities to plan ahead for replacing creaking ferries.

“We would also introduce a wider economic strategy that ensures government projects, such as Ferguson Marine, represent value for money.”

A spokesperson for transport minister Jenny Gilruth said that meetings have been offered to opposition political parties to work on next steps.

“The vast majority of CalMac ferries run on time and to schedule but breakdowns and delays are not acceptable,” they said.

“That’s why we’ve invested to provide additional capacity on the Clyde and Hebrides routes.

“The Scottish Government has provided over £2bn of support to our ferry networks since 2007 and there are now more vessels and more routes running than ever before.

“The transport minister has offered meetings with all opposition parties to discuss next steps in relation to the recently published Project Neptune, noting the need for improvement, but also the need to work across party political lines for the benefit of island communities.

“The minister looks forward to hearing from Mr Rennie.”

Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: “We take our responsibility to provide a reliable lifeline ferry service very seriously and work hard to avoid any disruption.

“However, the vast majority of cancellations or disruption is due to poor weather, which is out with our control.

“The start of 2022 saw unprecedented and severe weather conditions, including three named storms, which meant that sailings were affected over several weeks.

“Decisions to cancel services are only taken as a last resort and to safeguard the well-being and safety of those on board.

“Given the implications for safety and the legislation in place to ensure safety at sea, weather disruption is not a matter on which we are able to negotiate or consult.

“However, we recognise that disruption to services due to breakdowns and technical faults is extremely challenging for local communities, and we sincerely apologise to those affected when this happens.

“We are working hard to prevent unscheduled maintenance caused by technical issues, and we have invested record sums in our fleet to maintain vessel resilience and service in order to provide a high-quality service.

“This investment increased by around 70% over five years from £20.5m in 2017 to £34.1m in 2021.”

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