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CalMac ‘deeply sorry’ for disruption as ferry returns to service

A ferry being pulled from service led to disruption across the ferry network last week (Danny Lawson/PA)
A ferry being pulled from service led to disruption across the ferry network last week (Danny Lawson/PA)

CalMac’s staff are “deeply sorry” about disruption in the ferry network in recent days, the company’s managing director has said.

The MV Hebrides returned to service on Monday morning after it required repairs to its CO2 firefighting system.

The lack of the vessel meant several key Western Isles routes were cancelled last week, with the MV Isle of Mull being redeployed to cover the shortfall.

Island communities have repeatedly voiced their frustration about disruption to the ferry service in recent months.

Robbie Drummond, managing director at CalMac, said the MV Hebrides’ route was now getting back to normal.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Clearly customers are really upset about the latest disruption of last week and everyone at CalMac is deeply sorry for what they’ve been going through.”

Mr Drummond said Calmac wanted to encourage people to see the “brilliant scenery” of the Western Isles.

He said passenger numbers were down compared to 2019’s figures, with around 4.9 million expected this year.

When it was put to Mr Drummond that there was not enough resilience in the ferry network, he said: “There’s no lack of effort or money being invested in short-term resilience.

“Our spend is increased by 70% (over the) last five years, from £21 million to £34 million this year.

“But what we really need, and you’re right, is that long-term investment program.

“Because that’s what will give the islands the service they need, and one that we can all be proud of.”

He said he expected the service to remain challenging for the next year but problems would ease in the coming years when new vessels are introduced.

Two ferries being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow were expected to have been completed by 2018 but have since been delayed until at least 2023.

Costs for the two CalMac vessels have more than doubled from the £97 million price tag.