The situation with regards to easing of lockdown, how it will affect Tiree and ferry capacity remains rapid-moving and it has been challenging for TCC to pull together a summary without it immediately going out of date. We have been continuing to engage and make enquiries throughout the past week, including a Zoom call meeting with Michael Russell MSP and various conversations with CalMac and other officials. We have also been following various news reports, and of course the most recent updates issued by the First Minister.
Here is the situation as we currently understand it – please note that this is an attempt to usefully summarise current information, may become out of date at any point, and you should always check the latest updates when making any plans:
1) Currently family and friend visits involving travel to or from Tiree and staying overnight can effectively only be made by ferry under the provisions of an “extended household” – i.e. a single person or a person with children under 18 can form an “extended household” with one other household, and travel would be permitted in either direction for this purpose. This is because currently the restriction is that such visits must be outdoors, and not overnight – so unless you have another means of travel that can facilitate a day-trip, you can’t do it within the guidelines.
2) From 29th of June second home owners are allowed to visit “for the purposes of conducting essential repairs or checks”. Staying overnight is only meant to be for as long as repairs take. However it is “expected” that full use of second homes which do not have “shared facilities” can resume from 3rd July. Reference: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-second-homes-guidance/
3) From 3rd of July self catering holiday homes/caravans which are “self-contained” and do not include use of “shared facilities” can re-open, and visitors can come to Tiree to make use of them.
4) From 15th of July the rest of holiday lets and accommodations are expected to be able to open (i.e. B&Bs and hotels, or self-catering with shared facilities)
5) There currently seems to be a lack of clarity on if overnight stays for visits will be permissible in general after July 10th, when indoor visits are to be allowed for two households, other than under the “extended household” provision.
In terms of ferry capacity and policy:
The latest update on timetables and bookings from CalMac: https://www.calmac.co.uk/covid19/calmac-latest-update-26-june-2020
This states that there will be a four-a-week service from July 1st to July 14th, and that bookings for this period will open at 9am on June 30th. We also understand that due to incoming construction freight there is expected to be an additional sailing on Sunday 5th and 12th July. Bookings are currently expected to open on a two week cycle thereafter, with an updated timetable to come for the period July 15th into October. This would appear to raise possible issues for people wishing to travel in one direction during one such period, while not being able to book a return trip in a following period.
Following our representations on this issue, we have previously been assured by our constituency representative Michael Russell MSP (and similar assurances have been sought on our behalf by regional representative John Finnie MSP), that the intention is for there to be some provision for a priority system for islanders, so that those wishing to travel will not simply find that all spaces are already booked up due to bookings made prior to these new arrangements (or prior even to the pandemic). UPDATE (June 28th): This does not appear to have been done for the booking window which is now opening up. We are yet to receive any explanation why.
As of today however we are still unclear as to if and how this will happen. Options could include those with existing bookings having to re-book, while residents also have the opportunity to book – and it’d just be a case of scrambling to get in first and being lucky. Another option would be for some sort of division of available spaces, with some reserved for islanders to have a chance to book first.
We continue to make a call for this to be resolved and to that end recently released an open letter to Robert Morrison, Managing Director at Calmac:
To be absolutely clear, as previously, TCC are not calling for tourists to be barred from coming – rather that the needs of residents have to be considered and a fair provision made to give those of us who wish to the opportunity to safely take advantage of the easing lockdown restrictions.
Until we get clarity on what provisions if any for priority booking will be available we can only suggest that if islanders have a need to travel between July 1st and 15th they be prepared to seek to arrange a booking promptly as soon as Calmac opens them up, starting at 9am on June 30th!
UPDATE (June 28th): It appears to now be clear that existing bookings are being allocated to available capacity on the basis of earliest booked first – with no capacity being kept aside for residents/on the day bookings/etc. Some boats are being reported as already fully booked, before the option to place new bookings has even opened.
With regards to flights, Loganair are now operating a timetable of one flight a day, shared with Barra, until July 15th. Thereafter the flight will be shared with Campbeltown. A new timetable is expected from August 3rd.
UPDATE (July 1st): We received the following response from Robert Morrison at Calmac:
Thank you for your E mail of 25th June.
We are facing a number of challenges in managing the varying phases of lockdown and facing competing priorities with regards to islander view, tourism views, commercial views. At the same time working very closely with Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government in order to ensure our service offering mirrors Scot Gov expectations.
With regards to your specific questions I can confirm as follows,
1/Historic bookings will where possible be honoured first and additional space available will then be opened up to allow booking. The space will be based on Commercial block bookings for essential supplies, remaining space will be 80% advance booking and 20 % for on the day.
2/ We will allow 80% of the vessel space to be made available for advance booking and will retain 20% for on-the- day. This will provide for the kind of bookings that cannot be accounted for in advance. A good example here being patient hospital transfers etc. This space will be usable for local Islanders also. It should also be noted that some of pre-booked travel being honoured will also include local Islander bookings.
3/ Our Contract operates on a first come first served basis and we have been asked to open bookings in a similar way. In other words allow space to be made available on an equivalent way. I can appreciate your points around islanders looking to travel and I can only say that the best method is to ensure a booking is made. We will move to booking for foot passengers and vehicles. Whilst there will be opportunity to secure some space on the day the best and safest means will be to secure the advance booking. Tickets will be available to book on a rolling 14day basis so providing the return travel is within the same rolling 14 day window it should be possible to book the return.
Finally, we will continue to do our best to help to manage impact on the islands and whilst we are clearly very challenged by the impacts of the 2 M social distancing, we will continue to support the communities as much as possible.
I hope this info is of help.
Calmac Ferries Ltd