SCOTLAND'S lifeline ferry operator has been hit by a new fault - this time with its tickets and reservations phone lines which have been out of action for five hours.

CalMac confirmed the problem at 8am and said they are still experiencing a technical issue with their contact centre phone lines and are "working hard to resolve this".

Customers phoning the booking line receive an automated message saying: "Due to circumstances out of our control we are unable to take your call right now."

Customers have been advised to go to their website for bookings, service and timetable information.

A CalMac spokesman said: "There's a technical issue with the phone lines, it’s being worked on at the moment."

The issues have come as the islands open up as Covid restrictions ease.

It comes a matter of days after Scotland's crisis hit lifeline ferry network came under fresh fire after a new series of breakdowns and setbacks with five of its fleet leading to service cancellations and restrictions as new pressure is put on ministers to take urgent action.

Some customers have complained at being cut off at the start of the morning after being told they were on hold.

READ MORE: CalMac ferry network crisis as breakdowns cause three day island freight shutdown

One contacted the ferry operator saying: "What is happening to Calmac?

"Seem to be uncontactable - you wait on phone at 8am to be told you are number three in #the queue. By 8.15am you are told you are still number three in queue but due to high call volumes we are not going to answer your call after all - goodbye.

"On previous attempts I was cut off straight away so suppose I am progressing! Have tried e-mailing but response time is quoted at 8 days???!!!???"

On Saturday it emerged that a temporary replacement freight ferry for the Ullapool-Stornoway route - considered too small because it only had space for four lorries - had itself had to be replaced leading to at least three days of sailing cancellations.

HeraldScotland:

The 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran - which normally runs on the Ardrossan to Arran route - was brought in to provide a makeshift freight service on the Ullapool-Stornoway crossing on April 21 after ferry operator CalMac's largest ferry MV Loch Seaforth was taken into dry dock for "major" engine repairs.

The eight-year-old vessel was initially expected to be back in service at the end of April but is now not expected to be back in service till May 17 at the earliest.

But it emerged even the Isle of Arran has problems - with its stabilisers - and had to be removed from from the run to be replaced by the the 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, causing cancellations on its usual Kennacraig to Islay.

It meant that all crucial freight sailings between Ullapool and Stornoway were cancelled three days from Wednesday and future services have had to be amended.

It was one of five ferry issues in the previous two weeks that caused either cancelled journeys or travel restrictions.

At the weekend, the 23-year-old car ferry MV Clansman which runs the Oban-Coll-Tiree route was due to be out of action because a shaft needed replaced and an amended timetable was in place. The MV Hebridean Isles which normally runs between Kennacraig and Islay was to cover from Saturday night to Sunday night.

That came two weeks after it returned to Oban with all services cancelled for the rest of the day after it developed a fault. CalMac said at the time that the issue was being investigated.

The issues come off the back of the country's ferry building fiasco with two lifeline vessels being built at nationalised Ferguson Marine, owner of the last civilian Clyde shipyard. They were due to be in service in early 2018, are now up to nearly five years behind schedule and their is now over double the original £97m contract.