A Buteman reader trying to catch a ferry to Rothesay this week has hit out at Caledonian MacBrayne after a diverted ferry sailing left the pier - just as a train carrying intended passengers arrived.
Stephanie Fisher Paterson was caught up in disruption caused by high winds on the evening of Wednesday, February 13, which led to an early end to the day’s sailings and to Rothesay services being diverted to Gourock instead of Wemyss Bay.
CalMac announced that the last sailings of the day would leave Rothesay at 5.40pm and leave Gourock at 6pm and 7pm - a notice we republished on The Buteman’s Facebook page.
Later that evening, Stephanie replied to our Facebook update with the following comment: “Dear Cal Mac. I do hope your customer services team are able to see this.
“Your treatment towards locals and visitors to the island is nothing short of shocking. Picture the scene? Travellers to the island trying desperately to make it home tonight have to endure a change of journey plans and attempt to make it to Rothesay in this hideous weather.
“They do manage to board a train which eventually pulls into Gourock, and rather than wait a few minutes to accommodate the already inconvenienced travellers, you set sail into the wind.
“Have you no conscience, or is it just a blatant disregard to the welfare of your customers? So now, those stranded passengers have an anxious and long wait hoping that a sailing goes at 7pm.
“Whilst it is understandable that you cannot predict weather conditions, you could have safely assumed that your customers would have been pulling into the station just minutes after you left without them. Disgraceful!”
We forwarded Stephanie’s complaint to Caledonian MacBrayne, and in response we were told the company had been “genuinely trying to minimise the impact on as many ferry travellers as possible”.
A spokesman said: “We regret that Ms Fisher Paterson, along with many others, were affected by Wednesday’s bad weather.
“In these circumstances we do everything we can to maintain services, but it is never easy especially when we are forced to divert to another port which is also trying to maintain its own ferry service and there are passengers arriving by train, bus, car and taxi to make the connection.
“The situation at the time when Ms Fisher Paterson arrived at Gourock was particularly chaotic as the port had also lost power, and we can see from her perspective why she may have thought the ship should have waited.
“In fact the ship had been due to depart at 1800 but waited for the delayed 1757 train which arrived at 1800.
“These passengers embarked and she had to leave the berth at 18:07 to allow the Argyll Ferries ship in and then left to travel to Rothesay.
“Based on Ms Fisher Paterson’s account we believe she may have been on the delayed 1803 train which arrived at 1810. Even if it hadn’t been late there was no prospect she would have caught the 1800 ferry which was only still in the bay because it had waited for the delayed 1757 train.
“We fully understand that it is frustrating to see a ship depart and face a long wait for another, but the majority of the passengers who were on board had originally been aiming to catch the 1645 Wemyss Bay sailing and we were anxious that they should not be made to wait any longer.
“It is simply not possible in these circumstances to keep the ferry waiting indefinitely to get everyone who may wish to catch it on board. There has to be a cut off point.
“We appreciate the situation was not ideal but we were genuinely trying to minimise the impact on as many ferry travellers as possible.”