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Repair costs for CalMac’s ageing fleet of ships have topped £100 million in the past five years, according to figures released today (Thursday 18 May) by the Scottish Liberal Democrat party.

And the news comes just two days after a Scottish Government minister confirmed the massively overdue and over-budget hull 802 would go ahead, even though his own advisers say it would be cheaper to start again.

The repair figures were released to the Lib-Dems by Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd in response to a freedom of information request.

They show a whopping bill £26,555,000 for repairs and maintenance to the fleet in 2022/23, taking the total spent since 2018 to £106,562,000.

Meanwhile economy minister Neil Gray reported at Holyrood on Tuesday (16 May) on forecast costs for completion of Glen Sannox and hull 802.

Hull 802 was to have been the vessel serving the Uig, Tarbert, Lochmaddy route, but infrastructure company Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has instead decided to commission two further dedicated vessels for the Uig triangle from Turkish shipyard Cemre, to the same design as the two Islay ferries named today.

Mr Gray was unable to confirm the current expected cost of completing hull 802, despite close questioning by MSPs. Instead, he summarised the increase in costs as ‘extremely disappointing.’

The Scottish Government’s accountable officer had concluded that it is value for money to complete Glen Sannox, but Mr Gray said: “The case for vessel 802 is more challenging and I have accepted the judgement of the Scottish Government accountable officer that the narrow value for money case has not been made.”

But, he said: “These are not matters that can be taken into account in a pure value for money exercise.

“From the very start, we have been clear that our island communities deserve to be supported by two new, energy efficient vessels with the capacity and reliability required to support vibrant island economies.

“While I accept that the pure value for money assessment concludes that it could be cheaper to re-procure a new vessel, this work also shows that doing so would result in significant further delays.

“A new vessel could not be deployed until at least May 2027 at the earliest – four years from now, and two and half years from the current delivery timescale.

“I do not consider that is acceptable to ask our island communities to wait this further period.

“Recent issues with the reliability of an ageing island fleet and the costs associated with hiring replacement vessels in order to maintain services have merely added to the compelling case for delivering additional capacity as quickly as possible.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie pointed out that there have been six transport ministers since work on the two ferries at Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow Ltd (FMPG) began.

He said: “At this point further delays and cost overruns would surprise absolutely no one. Ministers are signing a blank cheque with no guarantee of when new boats will arrive.”

Mr Gray said that he had ‘reluctantly accepted’ a revised delivery date for hull 802 of late summer 2024.

In response to questioning on the future use of the vessel, he said: “The confirmation that has been given today on the delivery of MV Glen Sannox and hull 802 sits alongside our commitments to accelerating investments in new major vessels.

“The four vessels that are under construction in Turkey are intended for deployment on the Islay routes and the Little Minch routes from Uig to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, creating the opportunity for significantly increased capacity and resilience for the communities that are served.

“It also allows consideration of all options to deploy hull 802 on alternative routes, including potentially alongside MV Glen Sannox to provide additional capacity to and from Arran during the peak season.

“All options will be discussed with island communities at the appropriate time.”

The picture shows hull 802 at Ferguson Marine in April and is by Gerard Ward via Calmac ferries (Friends) on Facebook.