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Ferry disruption payouts hit more than £50,000 per month last year, figures show

The sums were paid to passengers affected by delays and other disruption to CalMac services (Andrew Milligan/PA)
The sums were paid to passengers affected by delays and other disruption to CalMac services (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Payouts to passengers on Scotland’s publicly-owned ferry operator averaged more than £50,000 per month for a period of last year, data shows.

CalMac paid out £215,000 for disruption between April and the end of July 2022 – almost equal to the amount paid in the full year before (£261,000), according to figures obtained through a freedom of information request by Scottish Labour.

It meant payouts over the period averaged £53,750 a month, compared to an average £21,750 a month the year before and £13,250 in 2018-19.

The vast majority paid out over the last five years was to cover meals and accommodation for passengers who faced disruption, with £146,000 spent on this between April and July last year.

A further £42,000 was paid for transport and £26,000 in official compensation during the same four-month period, according to the figures.

Ferry under construction
Scottish Labour also highlighted the ‘ferry fiasco’ of two delayed and over-budget new vessels (PA)

In the past five years, CalMac has paid out £636,000 to cover the cost of meals and accommodation.

Scottish Labour islands spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said: “These spiralling costs expose what a mess the SNP have made of lifeline ferry services in Scotland.

“Our ferry fleet has been left to rust because of years of failed planning, as well as the ferry fiasco where the Scottish Government have failed to deliver two new ferries.

“Now islanders are stuck with chaos, cancellations and delays while taxpayers foot the bill.

“The SNP have no short-term answers and no long-term plan to fix this shambles.

“We need a national ferry building programme that supports Scotland’s shipbuilding industry and delivers the ferries we need.

“In the meantime, they must buy additional tonnage to have enough capacity to cover the daily breakdowns that are happening due to the ageing fleet.”

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “It is worth pointing out that the vast majority of cancelled sailings related to weather impacts.

“In January and February 2022 alone, 92.75% of cancellations were due to either weather or Covid-19.

“The facts show that in 2022, of the 171,403 scheduled sailings across the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service network, 6.6% were cancelled, and of these, 1% were cancelled due to technical issues.

“It is clearly a decision for a ship’s master as to whether or not a vessel should sail and it would not be appropriate to question that professional judgement – which is made on safety grounds. It’s important those with expertise are given the respect to do so.

“‘In the last 12 months alone we have placed orders for four new major vessels in addition to the two already under construction at Port Glasgow.

“The Scottish Government has invested more than £2 billion in our ferry services since 2007 and we continue to work towards introducing more capacity and greater resilience on the Clyde and Hebrides network.”