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The truths they don't want you to read....

Friday, July 09, 2010

A new ferry? A new shambles.

The new ferry for the Stornoway-Ullapool run is to be 15% bigger than the "Isle of Lewis" but will replace both her and the "Muirneag".

Good news?

I don't think so.

With ferry capacity close to maximum at the moment, it is almost impossible to get a vehicle onto any of the ferries; and don't even think about arriving at short notice.

It might be a short season, but if we have to turn people away at Ullapool, Uig or Oban, it will be an even shorter season.

Oh yes, and the ferry is to be built, if they can find the money.

So where does this leave what passes for RET on these routes? Aren't we due a consultation over the future plans and strategy for ferry fares to and from the islands?

Yes, but. It's that BUT again.

It looks like they already know what size of new vessel is going to be fitted onto the Stornoway-Ullapool route, and at what cost, so it looks like the RET assessment will have to fit the economics of the capital spend, rather than the needs of the community. So the questions about economics are now largely irrelevant, as the constraints are already in place.

Imagine, just for a moment, that the consultants employed to assess RET recommend that ferry fares should be reduced by a further 25%, which will increase ferry traffic by 30% and solve all the economic ills of the islands. Not an option, as the boat is already committed to.

I forecast that the new boat will be too small for the run within a couple of years, and that we will have frustrated tourists and locals sitting in Ullapool. As well as all the problems that are going to arise if there any mechanical issues with the new boat.

We are losing an adequate service for something slightly better, when we need a major review and revision of the whole concept of cross-Minch ferries, with the Government looking backwards and not forwards.

Sad, but another missed opportunity looms.


Hairy McLairy said...

Time for a bridge, I think. (Stands back and waits for grenade to explode).

Anonymous said...

Tunnel. End of.

Anonymous said...

Why has the transport Minister not done a comparative cost of the future replacement costs of the ferries that serve the Hebrides against the cost of building a tunnel between Harris and Skye for example. This technology has been available for years in places like Norway, Japan and elsewhere. Its only about 15 miles and by combining the subsea cabling with the turbine projects this tunnel project is a win win for everyone. The relative cost would probably surprise people and would solve many of the travel disruptions caused by bad weather. Just replacing a ferry on its own should not be done without considering if there are other options, especially if there will be less carrying capacity. One would assume that the island should strive for economic growth, but just having one ferry will be quite restricting.

Dr Evadne said...

Surely it would make sense to replace the Muirneag with something sea worthy in order to get the freight on and off the island? Then sort out the passenger ferry. If you are reliant on only one ferry and there is disruption in bad weather, by chance, then the impact on haulage firms and passengers will be even worse than it is now.

Anonymous said...

Time for a poll on tunnel Angus.Harris to Skye with improved road network Skye to A87 etc.

Anonymous said...

The briefing papers for the new ferry indicate that it will run 24/7, given its size this is a massive increase in the carrying capacity of the route, and not by any stretch of the imagination a decrease. It will be interesting to see and hear how the timetables will be planned. The public meeting in Stornaway next month should be a must for all interested in the future of transport to and from the islands.

Anonymous said...

I like your headline. Unfortunately it may well prove to be 100% true.

A single large new ferry needs to be stopped as it will strangle the Islands economy.

The two ferries we currently have provide a patchy service a best, neither are good sea boats meaning multiple cancelled sailings & as one can only carry freight it's useless when the Isle of Lewis is full or broken down.

The run needs 2 identical boats, this will allow flexibility in timetabling, crewing and maintenance. If one big boat breaks down there is nothing in the Calmac fleet to replace it and the Island economy will freeze until it is repaired.

Lifeline ferry services should not be designed to be operated at maximum capacity, there needs to be excess capacity in this service that can only be provide in a reliable manner by having two full service boats on the run.

Anonymous said...

According to the Stornoway Gazette, the new vessel will be 160m long with a capacity for 160 cars.
By my calculation Angus, that's more than 15% bigger than the Isle of Lewis' 101m and 123 cars...

Anonymous said...

why dont we get a wind powered shuttle hovercraft?