SCOTLAND'S beleaguered lifeline ferry operator has been hit by a  new issue - this time with its tickets and reservations phone lines which were out of action for the whole of yesterday (Wednesday).

State-owned CalMac confirmed the problem at 8am and it is hoped the problem will be resolved by today.

Yesterday customers were being told that there was a technical issue with their contact centre phone lines throughout Wednesday and were "working hard to resolve this".

The issue meant the contact centre was unable to answer telephone calls and process card payments.

READ MORE: CalMac ferry network in crisis as four boats break down in three weeks

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

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

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

The contact centre issues arose a day after sailings were cancelled on the Wemyss Bay to Isle of Bute crossing because of a "technical issue" discover at around 5.50pm with the 16-year-old ferry MV Bute which can take up to 450 passengers and 60 cars.  Normal service resumed yesterday.

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

HeraldScotland: CALMAC FERRY MV ARGYLE AT WEMYSS BAY TERMINAL

And 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.

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.

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.

HeraldScotland:

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.

The first of the ferries the MV Glen Sannox is now destined for the Arran to Ardrossan route - Scotland's busiest ferry crossing - between April 2022 and June, 2022.

Ferguson Marine, led by tycoon Jim McColl went into administration in August, 2019 following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) - the taxpayer-funded company which buys and leases publicly owned CalMac's ships on behalf of the Scottish government - over the construction of the ferries under the fixed price contract.

The Scottish Government then pushed ahead to take full control of of the shipyard company as it went under with blame attached to soaring costs of the ferry contract.

CalMac was unable to say what the contact centre fault was.

A CalMac spokeswoman said in a prepared statement: “A technical issue has meant that the contact centre is unable to take card payments at the moment. We are working to resolve this and are confident that it will be back up and running on Thursday morning. In the meantime, customers are being directed to book via the CalMac website, where they can also check timetables and live service information.”