Mallaig-Armadale service is ‘the best we can provide’, says CalMac chief

Martin Dorchester, CalMac Chief Executive appeared before the Scottish Parliament’’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee to give evidence on Clyde and Hebrides ferry services. Pic – Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Ferry bosses have said this year’s Mallaig-Armadale ferry service will be ‘the best they can provide’ on the route.

Caledonian MacBrayne Chief Executive Martin Dorchester was responding to questioning from the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee at Holyrood today (Wednesday).

During the committee session, which covered a range of ferry issues, Highland Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said there had been concerns about the sound of Sleat route ever since the MV ‘Coruisk’ was redeployed to Mull last Summer.

The ‘Coruisk’ was redeployed to Mull

From 31st March this year the MV ‘Loch Fyne’ will share duties on the Sound of Sleat with the MV ‘Lord of the Isles’, with the latter vessel also continuing to serve the route between Mallaig and Lochboisdale.

Mr Dorchester told the committee that the ‘Coruisk’ would not be returning north.

He said: “We have put substantive support into the (Mallaig-Armadale) route. The route is up (on capacity) year on year.

“But we have a limited number of vessels to deliver a limited number of services and we have to manage the network as best we can.

“Skye is a great tourist destination. It will be a robust service this year – we need people to get behind it.”

Mr Dorchester also agreed to provide a written answer, after Caithness SNP MSP Gail Ross asked for details on the operational costs of Mallaig-Armadale in each of the past three years.

He added that he expected the ‘Lord of the Isles’ – which has been in dry dock for repairs – would be back in operation next week.

When the subject of reliability on the Mallaig-South Uist link was raised, Mr Dorchester said the two ports each presented difficulty for skippers.

He added: “Imagine making a handbrake turn on a 90-metre vessel. That’s not far short of what it takes to get the ‘Lord of the Isles’ into Mallaig.”