Call for long-term ferry investment

CalMac Ferries docked at Rothesay. Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles has called on the Scottish Government to implement a long-term plan of investment for ferry services across the country.
CalMac Ferries docked at Rothesay. Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles has called on the Scottish Government to implement a long-term plan of investment for ferry services across the country.

Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles has called on the Scottish Government to implement a long-term plan of investment for ferry services.

Mr Rumbles believes such a plan would bring transport security for island communities for decades to come.

During an opposition day debate in the Scottish Parliament last week, Mr Rumbles highlighted the potential dangers of an aging fleet and the snowballing cost of planned and unplanned maintenance.

This summer, ferry operator CalMac reported that the risk of break-down was now ‘significant’ for many of its aging vessels.

Mr Rumbles said: “Repairs at sea can only get us so far, we urgently need a long-term plan for our ferry services in Scotland.

“Earlier this year, the Scottish Government welcomed the principles of fair funding for local ferry services for the Northern Isles.

“By definition, the Scottish Government has accepted the responsibly to support vital ferry links for our island communities and help operators fund the snowballing cost of planned and unplanned maintenance.”

The Scottish Government defended its record. A spokesman said: “Since October 2007, CalMac has operated over 1.4 million sailings with 95 per cent of those services operating to timetable. Ferry travel has its own distinct challenges, with difficult weather conditions the cause of cancellations in the large majority of situations. Any impact on services is regrettable but Masters have a duty to ensure the safety of passengers above other considerations.

“We acknowledge the frustration of customers during the recent periods of disruption and are taking actions to address these concerns by continuing to invest in new ferries for the fleet, improving harbour facilities, and developing an action plan to tackle resilience issues on the network.

“We remain absolutely committed to supporting these vital transport links and helping the continued socio-economic development of our remote and island communities.”