ISLAND hoteliers say they have lost thousands in revenue following 'shambolic' ferry disruptions during one of its busiest weeks for visitors.


Holidaymakers trying to get to and from the Inner Hebrides beauty spot of Islay were faced with delays and cancellations after both of the island's ferries suffered faults over the Easter weekend.

As a result, accommodation providers are said to have lost around £7,500 - more than half of their projected income for the busy holiday week.

Furthermore, when factoring in the loss of trade for local retailers, restaurants and whisky distilleries, the Island lost closer to £20,000.

Reports from the island say a number of guests arrived late or had to leave earlier than planned over fears they would not be able to get back to the mainland.

The problems started on Saturday, April 4, when the MV Hebridean Isles broke down and was out of action for 24 hours, in the middle of the bank holiday weekend.

Although it began running again on Easter Sunday, transport services were hit again on Monday when the MV Isle of Arran suffered a propeller fault and had to be sent to Glasgow for repairs.

As a result, the Islay ferry service was cut from five crossings a day by two vessels, to four a day using only the MV Hebridean Isles, causing a bottleneck for passengers and freight traffic.

Paul Graham, a member of the island's ferry users' group and the former chair of the Islay and Jura tourism and marketing group, said: "I've never seen the island so angry in my life with the utterly shambolic ferry service we're experiencing.

"It's getting harder and harder to do business here but without a reliable ferry service, people are going to avoid Islay like the plague."

Mr Graham, who also runs a small hotel on the island, hit out at Transport Scotland for their mismanagement of the island services over the last few years.

The island's largest ferry - the MV Finlaggan - was taken out of service for a winter refit and although transport bosses promised islanders it would be back in time for Easter, it was deployed instead to cover a shortfall elsewhere in the network.

It was replaced in the meantime by the MV Isle of Arran, which remains out of action.

"It's been a fiasco," Mr Graham added. "It's under-investment for years and unfortunately it impacts on Islay all the time.

"I have heard from a number of visitors who said they won't be back. They loved the island, the weather was great but the crossing is a nightmare.

"We warned Transport Scotland about this on a number of occasions but they just haven't listened. We don't have two ferries as a luxury.

"If there's a problem anywhere in the network, they take one of our boats away, and it happens all the time.

"Hopefully, the Finlaggan will be back on Monday, but we've put up with this for a week - and in Easter week. Our season is short enough already."

Furthermore, the eight distilleries on the island are able to 'block book' space on the ferries to help them get their product on and off the island.

As a result, space for passengers is at a premium, leaving a number of rooms going spare.

MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has petitioned transport minister Derek MacKay to help resolve the persistent travel problems which affect vulnerable island communities.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: "This is an example of the challenges CalMac deals with in delivering a range of services across the entire network.

"The Scottish Government is continuing to invest in new vessels and ferry infrastructure to renew the fleet, bringing newer and more resilient vessels that should reduce future problems."

A spokesman for CalMac added: "Every effort has been made to minimise disruption by running extra sailings where possible. The fault with the MV Isle of Arran has now been identified and she is due back in service shortly.

"Many technical issues can be addressed on site but as this related to the propeller hub, we had no option but to take her to dry dock for repair.

"The MV Finlaggan, which was providing cover on the Uig triangle for part of the annual overhaul period, is also due to return to Islay shortly."