Local News for Tuesday 15th May 2018

Aberdeen flights cut by stealth
Eastern Airways has been warned of damage to its reputation, as flights between Stornoway and Aberdeen have been cut by stealth over recent week. The airline, which has partnered with Flybe to offer two flights a day to Aberdeen since March, has regularly cancelled services which are undersubscribed, losing trust from passengers booked to travel on the flights. Now politicians are calling on Eastern Airways to honour their commitments to passengers, and rethink cuts to the service. Eastern Airways have accepted that ‘reliability has fallen somewhat short in recent months’ and stated that they intend to revert to the previous service of just one daily service on weekdays this summer. Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “This is a disappointing development and Eastern Airways and Flybe must ensure customers are kept informed about the proposed changes.” Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “Eastern Airways is risking reputational damage with its casual approach to frequent timetable changes, and the lack of meaningful engagement with service users and other stakeholders. Less passengers will use a service that is known to be unreliable. Island-based oil and gas workers are relying on a punctual air service to meet their needs. There have been far too many cancelled flights and the decision to revert back to one plane a weekday will mean many will have to spend more time on the road and less at home with their families.” Writing to the airline, Councillor Donald Crichton said: “The frequent cancellations are unacceptable and customers have been treated appallingly. It is clear that Eastern Airways are fast losing the good will of the travelling public.”

Islands on foot
The first of a series of public meetings is to be held tomorrow, as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and HITRANS develop a strategy for walking and cycling in the Outer Hebrides. Public engagement events will take place between Wednesday 16th May and Monday 21st May. The project covers public roads and footways in the inhabited islands between Barra and Lewis. The Scottish Government is increasing the amount of funding for active travel projects and at the same time local communities are asking CnES for better, safer streets. Possible improvements range from adding new or wider places to walk and cycle along existing streets, to entirely new off-road paths in the countryside and better information on routes. Events will be held at Castlebay Sports Centre, Barra tomorrow from 7pm-8pm and on Thursday morning, Creagorry Co-op in Benbecula on Thursday from 5pm-8pm, the Isle of Harris Sports Centre, Tarbert on Friday by appointment only and Lewis Sports Centre all day next Saturday, 19th May from 10am-5pm.The proposed plan is to go to the Comhairle committees later in 2018. This will determine whether the content of the strategy will be formally adopted and used to guide further walking and cycling investment in the coming years.

Big vessel crew change fascinates ship-watchers
A crew transfer last Sunday in Stornoway had ship-watchers fascinated by the sight of the 3D seismic survey vessel Ramform Atlas, an unusually-shaped ship belonging to Petroleum Geo-Services. The Oslo-based seismic data acquisition company uses seismic waves to study earthquakes and to search for oil and natural gas. The giant vessel, which was moored off Stornoway and crew transferred by Stornoway Seafari, is one of four Ramform Titan-class vessels. They are the most powerful and efficient marine seismic acquisition vessel in the world and the widest ships ever at the waterline.