Alasdair Allan, the SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has highlighted the importance of planning travel ahead of time while ferry services to and from Tarbert and Lochmaddy are disrupted from Monday January 16) because of the replacement of the aged ferry pier at the port of big on Skye.
Originally, the Highland Council project, funded by the Scottish Government, was to leave Uig pier out of use for almost six months between October 2022 and March 2023, causing severe disruption for local communities.
After a storm of protest spearheaded by the people of Harris, the Scottish Government committed an additional £6m to the project which allowed the length of time the pier will be out of operation to be cut to 14 weeks, split over two winters.
The first period of disruption will begin on Monday 16January and will continue until 13 March.
During this time, services from Lochmaddy will be rerouted to Ullapool, while there will be no services between Tarbert and the mainland.
CalMac will be increasing the number of Lochboisdale sailings to Mallaig/Oban and sailings between Berneray and Leverburgh will be increased ahead of the usual timescale.
However, additional concerns have been raised by local residents regarding why sailings on the Sound of Barra have not also been increased as a way of easing pressure, and why those travelling on an alternative route will have to claim back the additional cost (as opposed to a system being in place to allow for payment of their usual fare amount at time of travel, as has been the case in previous situations).
The islands’ MSP is continuing to engage with CalMac and the Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth on all of these issues.
Allan said: “Disruption of any kind is never welcome. However, the two-stage process starting on Monday represents a far better outcome than what was first proposed by Highland Council. The original plans would have seen the pier closed to ferry traffic for virtually half a year; with potentially devastating consequences for communities in Uist and Harris.
“The eight week closure - while still far from ideal - will be easier for local businesses and passengers to manage. I am grateful to the Transport Minister for responding to the concerns raised by myself and other community representatives, and for the amount of work she put in putting workable alternative arrangements in place.”
The second closure period for Uig pier is due to take place between 30 October and 11 December 2023.