Tag Archives: calmac

Proposed ferry reductions and TCC response

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,

Don McKillop

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?

Yours Faithfully,

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.

A news article relating to this has now been posted: http://www.hebrides-news.com/ferry-row-24221.html

CalMac Correspondence: Deployment of LOTI

Whilst the Clansman covered the Uig/Tarbert/Loch Maddy triangle over the last few weeks, TCC received concerns from the public in relation to ferries being fully booked.

Although this was not highlighted in the recent TCC update in an Tirisdeach, we were in touch with CalMac in the course of LOTI’s deployment. Correspondence for your information is below. The stats mentioned were discussed at the Community Council meeting on 3 Oct.

29 September

Hello Robert,

Further to our discussion yesterday, there is plenty of comment on Tiree following yesterdays press release that Friday, Saturday and Monday are now fully booked and wait-listed. While I realise that the decision to re-position the Clansman will not be reversed, is there anything that can be done with the MV Isle of Mull to relieve this pinch? I would imagine that Oban-Craignure is possibly no longer as busy as high summer, and Mull also has the second string backup of the MV Coruisk.

Alternatively, can the Saturday double sailing, (now ceased for 2016), be extended for the week or so period that the Clansman is relieving on the triangle? As the company points out, it is Coll and Tiree that are bearing the brunt of the MV Hebrides mishap, but a little creative thinking would go a long way to retaining public support.

Also, prior to our Community Council meeting next Wednesday evening, could you possibly supply John and I with route statistics for summer 2016? We would be most interested to learn if the double Saturday rotation has been a success, and also if exclusive use of Clansman during summer 2016 has produced a percentage increase of summer 2015 carryings.

Best regards,


Ian Gillies,
Tiree Community Council.

3 Oct


Thanks for your E mail and sorry for the delay in responding.
We are somewhat challenged again this week with adverse weather!!!
Regarding the LOTI deployment can I thank you and the community for their patience during this difficult time.

In order to help manage the LOTI deployment I have asked the port to review all sailings for the next week and to consider instances where the capacity booked exceeds the LOTI size. Next Saturday is an example of this.
To account for this we have requested that the vessel consider a normal Oban-Coll-Tiree rotation but then follow this with a direct Oban Tiree- Oban sailing to cover the additional need.
I await confirmation of this option but recognise your need to know so will urge.

We are continuing to work closely with the hauliers to ensure all space booked is essential for supplies.
They are helping greatly to ensure we prioritise the essential.

I await Stats from our Stats dept and will share ASAP.


Robert Morrison
Area Operations Manager
Calmac Ferries Ltd

3 Oct

Hello Robert,

Thank you for this response and the possible solution of providing a double LOTI rotation this coming Saturday will certainly relieve the pressure over this coming weekend of school holiday traffic etc.

Thanks also for following up on the provision of carrying statistics over summer 2016, which I am hopeful will provide upbeat information, although there is obviously an associated cost.

Best regards,


24hr Ferry Cancellations

We were recently approached by two members of the community to speak to CalMac about the policy of cancelling sailings up to 24 hours in advance. There was concern that these cancellations are made without allowing for the fact that weather may improve. The correspondence is below.

Dear Sirs,
I am writing on behalf of the Tiree Community Council regarding concerns raised by members of the community, and brought to us at our last meeting on Wed 4 May.

The ferry to Tiree on Wed 4 May was cancelled the day prior to sailing due to adverse weather conditions.

The community members felt that the weather on the day was no worse than many a time the ferry sailed, and indeed docked, during the winter.

Whilst we are certainly not in the business of second guessing operational or skipper led decisions on the basis of safety, we, as a community, and as an elected Community Council would be interested in receiving a copy of the criteria used to judge that a sailing should be cancelled the day prior to sailing.

In the past, it was rare for a ferry to be cancelled the day before. We are well used to the amber warning system, and regard ferries cancelled due to weather to be part of island life.

However, there appears to have been an emerging pattern over the last year of ferries being cancelled the day before. This doesn’t allow for the possibility of the forecasted weather improving, nor does it take into account weather improving later in the day. With a dedicated boat for Tiree now available, it does not seem outwith the realms of possibility that a ferry could be delayed until weather improves. The weather on Wednesday evening for example, was a vast improvement on that which was present in the morning.

Would you be willing to provide us with a copy of the criteria for such early cancellation? Furthermore, are you able to tell us whether there has been a change in policy which has resulted in early cancellations becoming normal practice?

We do appreciate your time, and thank you in anticipation of a response

Yours faithfully,
Rhoda Meek
Tiree Community Councillor

And the response:

Dear Rhoda

Thank you for your email regarding what your Community Council regard as an increase in forward cancellations over the past year.

Although we do not have a written protocol on this which we can send you, as it is up to the judgement of each individual Master, you would be right in saying this type of bad weather management is becoming increasingly used to improve the public’s experience of travelling with us.

With improvements in weather forecasting and our ability to make decisions based on best possible information, our Masters are now able to make better evidence based decisions on the likelihood of a vessel sailing or not the following day.

Our Masters will always appraise the various weather forecasts in advance and where conditions are marginal they may well attempt the passage, however, where the weather forecast is significant they will consider cancelling sailings earlier.

The feedback we have from customer focus groups consistently says passengers prefer to know for certain whether a vessel will sail or not, with as much forward warning as possible. Then at least alternative arrangements can be made if a sailing is to be cancelled.

That is why you have seen an increase in sailings being cancelled 24 hours in advance. These cancellations are made on the best possible information available but you will appreciate that no system of weather forecasting is 100% accurate. There may be odd occasions when a sailing is cancelled in advance of a weather warning and the conditions are then not as severe as forecast.

We appreciate this may cause frustration for people who have had to change their plans, but our customer intelligence tells us this is the least worst option in the event of possible disruption of service.

Having up to date accurate passenger information is one of the key areas we get the most feedback on and we have taken major steps forward in improving this recently. A clear focus on getting information out through social and other media along with the introduction of an extra ‘traffic light’ in our disruption warning system now allow passengers to make travel decisions based on the best possible information.

The introduction of more planned cancellations is part of this move towards a more consistent approach to cancellations.

No system relying on weather forecasts can be foolproof, but we are trying to give us much certainty to our customers as possible.

I hope this answers your query but please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to find out more.


Martin Dorchester
Chief Executive
CalMac Ferries Ltd

John MacCaskill appointed to the Transport Minister’s Ferry Procurement Reference Panel

Our Vice Convenor, John MacCaskill has been appointed to the Transport Minister’s Ferry Procurement Reference Panel. This is a newly established group looking at the way that government secures ferry services and that these services are procured in a cost effective and fair manner.

Our congratulations to John, we know that he can make a good contribution to the debate around how our ferry services are tendered and contracted.