TCC was contacted by Calmac on behalf of Transport Scotland on Sunday 21st Feb with the following letter:
Transport Scotland have asked CalMac to seek community views on potential service reductions across the network. This is requested in the context of current overall demand, continuing travel restrictions, and follows other transport operators being asked to reduce services.
Your feedback will help inform Transport Scotland and Ministers in making decisions on any service reductions. Transport Scotland have not yet indicated any potential commencement date nor duration, should reductions proceed. These potential reductions ensure lifeline services are maintained, and reduces unnecessary interactions between customers, vessel crews and port staff, reducing the risk of community transmission.
Community feedback is requested by Wednesday 24th February, to enable Transport Scotland to discuss proposals and community feedback at a Local Authority engagement session, planned for the 25th February. Following the engagement session, CalMac will make any changes requested by Transport Scotland.
In specific regard to Coll and Tiree, this involves the suspension of the current Monday sailing, with all other services remaining as timetabled.
I would be grateful if you could please email me with your response, copying in the Transport Planning address above, who will collate all feedback and submit to Transport Scotland.
With thanks and regards,
Area Operations Manager – Argyll & Lochaber
Clearly three days was not sufficient time for us to conduct a meaningful consultation with the wider community – we therefore did what we could in a more focussed way to contact key service providers – e.g. the GP surgery, the main shops, hauliers, fisherpeople, etc.
Today we sent the following reply to Transport Scotland (via Calmac):
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to give our input to your discussions. However, the Tiree Community Council feels it has not had sufficient time to fully consult with all interested parties on Tiree. We did manage to contact the main hauliers, the local shops, some local shellfish fishermen, our medical staff, many of which live off island and the local school, which you will know share a head teacher and some key staff with Oban. Each group gave eloquent reasons for the retention of sailings on different days.
We did not have enough time to consult with other interested parties such as the building trade, utilities or social services. However, based on previous conversations, the Monday/Tuesday combination allows specialists to come to Tiree while only requiring one overnight stay.
The clear result of pulling together the responses is that any cut would have a significant impact on at least one essential service or already under-pressure industry, and as you might expect the strong general theme from all parties was that they did not wish any sailing to be cut.
We also had many asking if there is likely to be an impact on the resumption of the summer timetable given the current issues facing the fleet, and if so what that might be, and what we should now expect in terms of the summer timetable given both the current issues and the recent announcements by the FM?
TCC has been engaging with Calmac throughout the recent disruption to service to the island, ensuring that the serious issues facing the island with no food deliveries, etc, were raised in strong terms – with the result being additional sailings to help alleviate the immediate backlog – however there remain significant capacity issues across the fleet with technical problems and of course the weather affecting the fleet, which is depleted as usual for this time of year due to scheduled refits. We will continue to argue for the best possible provision for service to Tiree and Coll, working with our counterpart Community Council there, and to maintain pressure on Government to take action on the wider, longer term issues of fleet capacity and serviceability.
Just as we were about to publish this post, we became aware that Transport Scotland are apparently now committing to not reduce sailings unless this was supported by communities – which suggests we should not expect to see any further reduction.