There is a lot of interesting ferry news coming your way in the next weeks. With the new Islay ferry being built in Poland it becomes clear that things will change. Will the new ferry sail from Kennacraig to Port Ellen or will the goverment try to save money and will the new ferry run from Oban to Port Askaig. And what will be the name of the new ferry? I had the impression that Finlaggan was a fine name with a solid Islay background but it seems that the majority of the people on Islay would prefer the name "Isle of Islay", sounds logical doesn't it? But Calmac says that they no longer want to use "island names" for their new vessels, why now you might wonder? And what will happen with the Isle of Arran? She is still a good ferry and could well serve another route. Robin Currie, Islay councillor, has an interesting idea of what can be done with the â€˜MV Isle of Arranâ€™. In an article in the Ileach he says it should serve Tiree, Coll, Colonsay and Islay from Oban. Continue reading.....
Robin Currie: Islay Councillor Robin Currie has told Argyll and Bute that: 'This Council must send out a clear message to the Scottish Government to demand that when the MV Isle of Arran is replaced by the new Islay ferry in 2011 that she is redeployed on a triangular route serving Tiree, Coll, Colonsay and Islay from Oban. This would give more ferry capacity for Islay and at the same time give more sailings to the other islands that have the least sailings in the network.' When the new Islay ferry comes into service in 2011, CalMac say that the requirement for one of the ships serving Islay to be redeployed as the back-up vessel for the fleet in the event of a breakdown elsewhere will end as there will be, in effect, a 'spare ship'. It has become accepted in recent years however, that it is a much better use of resources to have this 'spare ship' working a route rather than having it sitting in port waiting for trouble to develop elsewhere. It was this approach that enabled the deployment of the 'Isle of Arran' as a second ship to Islay to support the 'Hebridean Isles', a move which has greatly enhanced the Islay ferry service from 2007 onwards.
Currie told the Ileach that he believes that the triangular service he is proposing would see the islands of Colonsay, Coll and Tiree benefiting enormously from a service which he stressed would be 'in addition' to the core services currently provided. Having these as 'additional services' would however provide CalMac with the flexibility they need to support the rest of the network in the event of a breakdown. Additional breaks in these 'additional services' could be scheduled to enable annual refits of ships. It would also be a huge boost to Islay which has seen car and passenger traffic increases of around 10% during 2009. CalMac admit that the current level of ferry services to Islay means that the route is 'potentially constrained'. No-one actually knows how badly Currie argues that this triangular route, incorporating four islands with Oban as the hub, is therefore the most efficient way of using the 'spare ship'. The alternative, which is to employ the spare ship on a 'new route', will inevitably result in the 'second' Islay boat, the 'Hebridean Isles' once again being the spare ship for the network - with no end in sight to the disruptions seen on the Islay route this summer.
Currie continued, 'Utilising the 'Isle of Arran' on this route means that she could also make additional sailings to Mull at busy times. The important factor is giving a better service, which is needed, to the islands of Colonsay, Tiree and Coll and Islay. With so many visitors visiting Oban, the Islay leg could be very attractive to tourists. Also the triangular route is a great opportunity to get a lot of the Argyll islands joined up. Western isles are joined up with causeways, etc, this would be our way of getting better connected.'
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.