SCOTLAND'S biggest publicly run ferry is due back in service tonight - after nearly seven weeks of repairs.

MV Loch Seaforth was taken off the Ullapool-Stornoway route by state ferry operator CalMac in mid-April to be taken into dry dock for "major" engine repairs.

It led to  six delays in getting the vessel back in service as repairs continued.

Now Scottish Government-funded CalMac CalMac say sea trials on the MV Loch Seaforth have been successful and the vessel will return to service this evening as planned.

Following major repairs, the vessel left the James Watt dock in Greenock on Friday and completed 50 hours of sea trials before arriving in Stornoway yesterday.

Further tests carried out on Monday  were also successful.

The publicly funded firm had initially said the eight-year-old vessel would be out of action until "at least the end of April" at the earliest but has since kept putting that date back.

As the islands started to open up to visitors with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the return of the vessel has been pushed back yet again to May 31 at the earliest.

The Herald revealed how the failure of Loch Seaforth resulted in cuts to other services across the ferry network as vessels relied on with other routes were shifted around to accommodate.

Campaigners had described the situation as a "national scandal" and that those responsible should already have lost their jobs for the state of Scotland's ferries.

The 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran - which normally runs on the Ardrossan to Arran route -  had to be taken off freight service duties on the Ullapool-Stornoway crossing because of stabiliser problems, resulting in a shutdown on services for over three days, has been operating on the "more sheltered" Islay run.

There was criticism when it emerged that as Isle of Arran only had space for four lorries.

According to the Arran Recovery Group, the shifting of the MV Isle of Arran  for the start of the summer tourist season would cost the island more than £500,000 in lost business.

READ MORE: CalMac confirms sixth delay over repair of its biggest vessel heralding Spring bank holiday disruption

CalMac said Loch Seaforth's return means that Castlebay-Oban will recommence on Wednesday 2 June with the MV Isle of Lewis Islay-Kennacraig two-vessel service on the same day.

HeraldScotland:

The MV Hebridean Isles will return to this service and will also operate the Colonsay service as timetabled MV Isle of Arran will return from the Islay service on Wednesday 2 June.

The Brodick-Ardrossan two vessel service will resume on Thursday 3 June.

And the Campbeltown summer season will finally start on Thursday 3 June, while  the MV Isle of Arran Lochboisdale-Mallaig and Mallaig-Armadale will recommence on Wednesday 2 June with the MV Lord of the Isles.

Robert Morrison, Operations Director of CalMac, said: “We recognise that this has been an extremely challenging time for customers and staff and again apologise for the disruptions over the past few weeks.

“We are looking forward to getting back to operating the normal summer timetable service and to welcoming passengers onto our ferries.”

For additional information, visit: www.calmac.co.uk www.facebook.com/calmacferr