CalMac is "deeply sorry" for recent disruption after one of their key ferries was taken out of service for repairs as boss reveals passenger numbers are down.

One of the ferry operator's oldest ferries, the MV Hebrides, was taken out of service for the third time in the matter of weeks. 

The vessel was experiencing issues with its CO2 firefighting system. 

The Herald on Sunday revealed that some shops on Scotland's islands have been forced to ration essential items amid widespread disruption. 

Some local shops restricted residents to just one carton of milk and one loaf of bed. 

Island communities have repeatedly voiced their frustration about disruption to the ferry service in recent months.

Robbie Drummond, managing director at CalMac, said the MV Hebrides’ route was now getting back to normal.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Clearly customers are really upset about the latest disruption of last week and everyone at CalMac is deeply sorry for what they’ve been going through.”

Mr Drummond revealed passenger numbers were down by around 50% when compared to 2019 figures. 

He said Calmac wanted to encourage people to see the “brilliant scenery” of the Western Isles.

When it was put to Mr Drummond that there was not enough resilience in the ferry network, he said: “There’s no lack of effort or money being invested in short-term resilience.

“Our spend is increased by 70% (over the) last five years, from £21 million to £34 million this year.

“But what we really need, and you’re right, is that long-term investment program.

“Because that’s what will give the islands the service they need, and one that we can all be proud of.”

He said he expected the service to remain challenging for the next year but problems would ease in the coming years when new vessels are introduced.

Two ferries being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow were expected to have been completed by 2018 but have since been delayed until at least 2023.

Costs for the two CalMac vessels have more than doubled from the £97 million price tag.