Local News for Wednesday 4th April 2018

CalMac ‘tweaks’ after pressure on ferry
The MV Hebrides has returned to service on the Uig triangle, with CalMac acknowledging they had underestimated the impact on passengers from the arrangements made to cover the service while they are one vessel down. The change came after Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said the company ‘had to get the Hebrides back on the Lochmaddy route” due to the acute situation which had arisen while replacement vessel MV Hebridean Isles was serving the Uig triangle. Mr MacNeil said: “The already fragile Uist economy was hit particularly hard by the situation over the Easter weekend, when the Hebridean Isles was clearly inadequate for the service.” CalMac announced new arrangements for the service on Monday evening, taking the Hebrides off the route serving Colonsay, Coll and Tiree and returning her to the Uig, Tarbert, Lochmaddy route. MV Hebridean Isles will now serve the daily Lochboisdale/Oban route. CalMac still have to deal with capacity issues resulting from the MV Clansman waiting in dry dock for the return of her propulsion unit from a yard in Denmark, where it was sent for repairs after an incident several weeks ago. Head of operations, Robert Morrison, said: 'The pressure on our services during this busy holiday period and the fact that we are a major vessel down means we have had to tweak our services again. We apologise for the disruption over the past few days to our North Uist and Harris customers in particular. We hope this new redeployment will address most of the capacity issues experienced on the Uig Triangle services over the past few days.”

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 4th April 2018

Local News for Tuesday 3rd April 2018

MSP steps in to ferry chaos
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has stepped in to raise the problems affecting ferry users in North Uist and Harris with both Calmac and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf. The MV Hebridean Isles is now covering the routes from Uig to Tarbert and Lochmaddy, while MV Hebrides is away servicing other routes and Clansman is in dry dock. Dr Allan said: “The capacity of the relief vessel on the ‘Uig Triangle’ route is clearly not enough to cope with the demands of passengers at this time of year, as recent days have shown. The crew of MV Hebridean Isles have put in a huge effort trying to cope, for which they deserve thanks, and there have also been some extra sailings by the Lochboisdale ferry to try to pick up the strain for people in Uist. With MV Hebrides not due back on the route for a month or so, there is a real problem on these routes. As local MSP, I have urged Calmac to take whatever measures are possible to ensure that capacity is available for people to travel to and from Lochmaddy and Tarbert adequately in the coming weeks.”

CalMac has admitted that the situation this week is just the start of a probable summer of discontent, with ageing vessels and the increasing popularity of the Hebrides as a holiday destination creating a recipe for trouble. Nearly half of the ferries working island routes are already beyond their 25-year life expectancy and the risk of mechanical failures and breakdown is growing. Robbie Drummond, interim managing director of CalMac, said: "We ask a lot of our fleet, and indeed our people, at the busiest time of year on our network. I am very conscious of the workload our boats will be undertaking and the strain that puts them under, particularly the older vessels in the fleet. We're already dealing with the consequences of that reality and I'd like to apologise to everyone as the MV Clansman is currently in dry dock awaiting the return of the propulsion unit sent to Denmark for repairs. CMAL is investing in new ferries, with the Glen Sannox due to be launched in November. Until then, we will of course proactively manage as best we can with the current fleet, but I fear that it will, at times, cause issues on some of our routes."

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 3rd April 2018

Local News for Monday 2nd April 2018

CalMac summer of trouble brewing
CalMac’s hopes that disruption to services on the Uig triangle would end at the weekend have been dashed, with the MV Clansman still in dry dock in Scandinavia and the MV Hebridean Isles moved to operate the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy triangle, just as new summer timetables began and visitor numbers started to surge for the holiday season. The resulting capacity and journey time issues have led to customer dissatisfaction. Passengers moved into the Stornoway route at the weekend faced confusion as re-booking services seemed ready to charge them for the change. Wild weather today hasn’t helped the situation, and several services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy have been cancelled. Foot passengers wanting to travel to Uig from Tarbert today were asked to take the bus to Stornoway and cross to Ullapool, before a three and a half hour minibus journey to Uig – the total journey time around nine hours.

Read more: Local News for Monday 2nd April 2018

Local News for Friday 30th March 2018

Chance for future music stars
Future music stars are being given a dream opportunity to play at HebCelt and to record at a state-of-the-art studio in new competition launched yesterday by Hebridean Celtic Festival and Black Bay Studio. The Next Steps competition will seek out the best young artist or band aged between 18 and 25 at the time of HebCelt, and the winner will secure a slot on the festival’s Islands Stage, a day recording at the studio with accommodation, plus £500 of expenses and passes to enjoy the rest of HebCelt. Caroline Maclennan, director of HebCelt, said: “The festival has always been passionate about promoting and supporting emerging young talent. In the Year of Young People, we feel it’s important to develop this support and help them take the next steps in their career. Providing a stage slot alongside some international artists, and the chance to record in Black Bay Studio in a wonderful setting, is a fantastic incentive for musicians.” The competition is open to any young band or performer, aged 18-25, playing a genre of music that reflects the general programming of the festival.
Submissions should be entered by the deadline of midnight on Saturday 14 April. See www.hebceltfest.com/competition

Read more: Local News for Friday 30th March 2018

Local News for Thursday 29th March 2018

Choices made in Trust election
Tuesday night saw a late finish at Stornoway Town Hall as votes were counted in the election of five new trustees for the Stornoway Trust. The successful candidates were Murdo Campbell of Portnaguran, Norman Maciver, Back, Donald ‘Dickie’ Macleod of Stornoway, Catriona Murray, North Tolsta and Donald Nicolson of Sandwick. They were selected from 22 candidates for the five places – the largest field for 40 years. A large number of votes were cast on the day at Stornoway Trust office, as polling packs had been printed close to the voting deadline, and many were too late to post their votes to Electoral Reform Services in London, which counted postal votes. A total of 4,261 votes were cast, of just under 10,000 eligible voters in the Trust area, which covers Stornoway, Point, Broadbay and parts of Lochs. After the result, returning officer Iain Maciver thanked the counting team for their hard work on a busy and tense evening.

Read more: Local News for Thursday 29th March 2018