Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has again raised the issue of passenger capacity on Western Isles ferries as Islanders continue to face difficulties travelling to and from the mainland.

The MSP said, “I have now met with Martin Dorchester, CEO Calmac Ferries and Brian Fulton, Director Calmac Ferries over the totally unacceptable situation that exists. 

"Islanders are suffering because they cannot get a booking on the ferries between Stornoway and Ullapool and also on the Tarbert to Uig route. This is very worrying, especially as summer has only started.

"This is affecting day-to-day life for the Islanders who are experiencing problems attending funerals, appointments and work commitments.  It is likely to impact on families going on holiday this summer, too.”

The MV Loch Seaforth has less inside seating capacity than its predecessor, the MV Isle of Lewis, and also replaces the feight ferry which used to run every night.

The MSP added, “It seems ridiculous to even contemplate replacing a larger passenger seating capacity vessel with a smaller one given RET and the increase in people holidaying in Scotland, never mind having it take over from the freight ferry as well.

"The Loch Seaforth is running almost 24 hours a day and, as was predicted by the majority of stakeholders at the time, it simply does not have sufficient capacity in the summer months.

"This also raises the issue of maintenance as the ferry now sails twice during the day on Sunday. We need two boats on this route to satisfy the lifeline requirement and I will be taking this fight back to the Scottish Government.”
 
Mrs Grant continued, “When pressed on the issue Martin Dorchester confirmed that Calmac could investigate the introduction a freight ferry which would free up capacity on the Loch Seaforth which can only carry restricted passenger numbers when carrying hazardous cargo. 

"I believe this would be a short term solution and will be discussing this with CnES and hauliers. This would at least alleviate the immediate issue as the Loch Seaforth then could accommodate a third sailing for passengers through the summer months.”
 
Mrs Grant concluded, “I have contacted CNES who agree that the situation is worrying and that we need to look at short term measures to get us through the summer. 

"I will also be asking Humza Yousaf and the SNP Government to address this issue rather than consistently ignoring the provision that is the lifeline ferry services for the Western Isles."