CalMac chief apologises for old ferries making life ‘intolerable’ for Scots islanders

CalMac’s managing director has apologized for aging ferries ‘making life intolerable’ for Scots islands amid major problems with the network.

Robbie Drummond lamented the issues on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

The ferry chief held his hands up on the airwaves after it emerged one vessel serving the Isle of Arran was out of action till early May due to engine failure.

The MV Caledonian Isles has been replaced with MV Isle of Arran, a smaller ferry.

Robbie Drummond, CalMac Ferries Ltd managing director

This means lifeline services are being prioritized affecting islanders for whose life has been made ‘extremely uncertain’ according to Gavin Fulton from the Arran Ferry Action Group.

He said: “As of yesterday lunchtime, out of six petrol stations, only one had petrol.

Pubs have been running out of beer. “More importantly, tourism, which is the lifeblood of Arran’s economy – tourists can’t get a booking on the boat.

“They don’t know whether they turn up at Ardrossan to be able to get to Arran, and if they do get to Arran, they don’t know if they’ll get back.”

He said the issues are not new for Arran, pre-dating both the coronavirus pandemic and the controversy surrounding the building of ferries in Port Glasgow.

However, I have reported that more people are now talking about leaving the island, saying the situation is “intolerable” for those with serious health conditions who require traveling back and forth to attend hospital.

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Mr Fulton said the Scottish Government needs to acquire more vessels to provide extra capacity across the CalMac network.

Mr Drummond apologized to customers on Good Morning Scotland, adding that the company is doing “absolutely everything we can” to minimize the impact for islanders.

He said: “I appreciate it’s an extremely difficult time for the Isle of Arran, and I apologize again for all of the disruption.

“But I can assure you that everyone at CalMac really cares.

“We’re working extremely hard to bring the service back to full operation, and we’re also doing all we can to minimize the impact in the meantime.”

The Ardrossan to Brodick CalMac ferry the MV Caledonian Isles
The Ardrossan to Brodick CalMac ferry the MV Caledonian Isles

Mr Drummond said the amount of money being spent on maintenance has increased by 70 per cent in the last five years.

“We’re now spending this year, something like £33 million on maintenance. Five years ago, that was only £21 million,” he told the programme.

When asked why vessels were facing issues with maintenance so often, he said: “We are running an aging fleet.

“Nearly a third of our vessels are beyond their normal expected lifeline, so we are doing everything we can to keep our fleet going.

“What we do need is new vessels, and what we urgently need to see is a long-term plan for replacement vessels and replacement ports, and an accelerated procurement program that starts to put in place a standard fleet that operates to standard ports.

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“That will make a huge difference running across our network.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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