CHANGE OF HARBOUR PLAN: Six month closure of Uig pier is scrapped

The MV Hebrides at Uig. The pier is being upgraded to accommodate a new vessel. Pic Willie Urquhart

Plans for a six month closure of Uig pier in Skye have been scrapped, the Scottish Government has confirmed today.

Instead of a single 24-week shutdown from this autumn, the closures needed for harbour redevelopment will be reduced to 14 weeks – over two separate periods

There will be an eight-week closure period starting in January 2023, and then a second six-week closure later that year.

The plan for the six month closure had sparked huge concern among the communities of Uist and Harris, which rely on a regular ferry service to Uig.

Under the new plans the first outage will start on 16th January 2023 until 13 March 2023, and the second outage will commence on 30th October 2023 until 11 December 2023.

The Scottish Government said it was supporting these changes to reduce the total closure time by 10 weeks with direct investment of £6 million.

CalMac has said it will also continue seek second hand tonnage to potentially support vessel capacity during the outage.

Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said: “It was very clear in my meetings with Western Isles stakeholders earlier this year that the original plans for the Uig outage were not acceptable to island communities.

“Having convened a number of resilience calls with islanders and stakeholders, I am pleased that we have been able to reach this resolution, which is supported by additional funding from the Scottish Government.

“I appreciate that any level of disruption is not welcome, but this project is vital to improving ferry services and the harbour experience in Uig in the longer term.

“I would like to thank The Highland Council, CalMac, CMAL, Western Isles Council, Harris Development Ltd, Harris Transport Forum, local elected members and members of the Ferries Community Board for their co-operation in the series of meetings which have led to this outcome. I will continue to urge project partners to look at reducing the duration of the outages if possible.”

The project is being led by Highland Council.

Malcolm MacLeod, Executive Chief Officer of Infrastructure, Environment and Economy, said: “The first outage period will enable the installation of some of the permanent infrastructure as well as the installation of a temporary bridge to enable the ferry services to resume for the summer timetable next year.

“The new linkspan will then be installed during the  second outage with completion over the Uig upgrades works now expected to be Spring 2024.

“We continue to work to minimise disruption during the works and, when complete, will provide improved marshalling and ferry terminal facilities as well as the ability to cater for large ferry vessels serving the route in the future.”

Locally held liaison meetings are to be held over the next month to discuss further details of the construction works and traffic management arrangements.

Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac, said: “We recognise that the closure of Uig harbour by Highland Council will be disruptive to local communities, and I am very grateful for their patience while we finalised the required service changes.

“This has been an extremely complex operation, but we believe that we have provided the best available solution in order to maintain lifeline services.”

Planned changes to services during the Uig closure periods are:

•             Lochmaddy – Ullapool (MV Hebrides)

•             Daily return sailings between Lochmaddy – Ullapool

•             Lochboisdale – Mallaig/Oban

•             Daily return sailings between Lochboisdale – Mallaig (4 days per week)

•             Daily return sailings between Lochboisdale – Oban (3 days per week)

•             Tarbert – Uig service cancelled

•             No vehicle service to/from Tarbert for the duration of closure periods.

•             Amended Ullapool – Stornoway (MV Loch Seaforth)

•             Sailing times moving forward by one hour to accommodate Ullapool/Lochmaddy sailings, i.e., comply with the 90-minute separation between sailings.

•             Oban – Lochboisdale (MV Isle of Mull & MV Hebridean Isles)

•             Offer daily return services when deployed to Lochboisdale (winter overhaul plans).

•             Berneray – Leverburgh

•             Increasing service levels on Sound of Harris during both closures to provide additional capacity.