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The start of the seasonal ferry service from Campbeltown to Ardrossan has been further delayed.
Ongoing repairs to the MV Loch Seaforth have revealed more issues which will require attention before the vessel can return to service.
The Campbeltown-Ardrossan summer service was scheduled to begin on April 29, but has been postponed to allow vessels to be redeployed across CalMac’s routes while the MV Loch Seaforth is repaired.
The vessel was expected to return to the Stornoway-Ullapool route by today, Friday May 21, at the earliest, but this date has now had to be pushed back, with Friday May 28 now being the earliest expected return date.
Specialist engineers working on the Loch Seaforth have reported that more work must be carried out to her engines, while the crankshaft also requires work, meaning the temporary changes to vessels across the network will remain in place for the time being.
Robbie Drummond, CalMac’s managing director, said: ‘This is frustrating news, as we were expecting to see the Loch Seaforth return to service sooner than this.
‘We will continue to work closely with customers to keep them updated on the latest situation and to minimise further disruption.’
John Armour, chairman of the Campbeltown ferry committee, said the group was ‘very disappointed’ that there had been a further postponement of the start of the seasonal service.
He added: ‘The lack of suitable ferries is there for all to see and obviously when a major route loses one of the largest boats in the fleet, it has a huge knock-on affect elsewhere, and Campbeltown and Arran are once again suffering because of this. The situation needs to change.
‘I highlighted this issue to Jenni Minto MSP during the election campaign and I welcome the news that, along with two of her fellow MSPs, she has asked for an urgent meeting with the transport minister, urging action.
‘I agree with them that chartering or leasing ferries from elsewhere is looked at as a matter of urgency.’
Ms Minto, the newly elected constituency MSP for Argyll and Bute, has joined forces with Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan and Cunninghame North MSP Kenny Gibson to ask the Scottish Government for discussions about the ferry network ‘as a matter of urgency’.
Ms Minto said: ‘The need for new ferries here in Argyll and Bute, to ensure the vital services providing connections for our rural and island communities and businesses are both reliable and resilient, could not be more clear.
‘I look forward to meeting with the Scottish Government and working to ensure our ferry fleet is fit-for-purpose timeously.’
Re-elected Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant is re-iterating her campaign for a fit-for-purpose ferry service in Scotland and has written to CalMac to ensure that the fleet can resume its scheduled service.
Mrs Grant said: ‘The CalMac ferry network has been in utter chaos for the last few months, leaving communities short of supplies and struggling to maintain lifeline connections.
‘It may seem like it is only one or two ferries, but it has had a devastating domino effect throughout the network.’