Harris group questions ferry capacity

MV Hebrides leaving Uig pier

CalMac’s policy of not using the mezzanine deck on the MV Hebrides is hitting locals who are unable to book a place on the ferry.

That was the claim communicated to transport minister Jenny Gilruth this week by Kenny MacLeod, chairman of Harris Development Ltd.

In a letter to the minister he wrote: “As we await a suitable time for our urgent meeting to discuss our concerns over the serious impact the decision by CalMac to reduce the capacity of the MV Hebrides, I have been going over the figures again and am absolutely horrified to discover that the reduction in use of the mezzanine deck does not even account for half the loss of traffic on this route.

“Given that there are three sailings per day from Uig when the mezzanine deck would be available, and that it is offered on the last sailing every day that is two sailings when it was not used, equating to 36 vehicles per day, or 4392 over the 122 days of the period in question.

“For most of last summer we were being told that the vessel was fully booked and many of us had to go on waiting lists in the hope of cancellations, often not coming until the last 24 hours before travel.  To now discover that CalMac had artificially reduced the capacity still further is scandalous.

“Is this them punishing the people of Uist and Harris for challenging their decision to not make the mezzanine deck available on all sailings?”

Mr MacLeod claims that this represents a “huge financial penalty” to the economies of Harris and Uist.

He said: “For the four months in the figures for last year that is at least £8.5 million.  If we allow the same for the whole of this summer season the figure rises to probably over £11 million.”