CALMAC has promised to resolve glitches to its new £18m ticket system which was set up to make travel simpler.

The Scottish Government-owned ferry operator has apologised for issues over the launch of its long-delayed booking and ticketing platform on May 17, and has reassured these will be resolved.

It stated there were a number of problems, including payment issues, that a number of customers cannot see their accounts, and also indicated that emails were not getting delivered to some customers.

It comes after CalMac booking services ground to a halt for four days from Saturday (May 13) ahead of the introduction of its much-awaited new online platform.

CalMac advised that the “scheduled maintenance” had to continue until the new ticketing and booking platform went live at 5 am on Tuesday, May 16.

As a result, booking, amendments and cancellations were unavailable,

But CalMac extended this downtime by 24 hours, “due to the complexity of bookings affected by recent disruptions”.

CalMac chief executive last week hit out at reports that thousands of customers across Scotland were experiencing difficulties buying tickets on Wednesday following customers stating the booking website was crashing.

He said: “This is irresponsible reporting. The system is live and working, we have taken over 5000 new bookings since 0500 this morning and vessels are sailing.

“Our team will continue to support customers with access difficulties or specific booking enquiries.”

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CalMac has now said that  "as expected with a system change of this scale, several issues were experienced on launch day. In many cases these were peripheral to the core system but nevertheless disruptive for customers and increased pressure on staff".

The ferry operator said: "CalMac would like to provide reassurance that the core system is working, bookings are being processed, and all services are running."

It said there were payment issues on nine of its routes initially which were resolved on the first day. Another issue arose which may be affecting payments on several routes, which it said was "being addressed"


It said CalMac’s supplier is working on "several issues", the principal of which relates to some  customer not being able to see their accounts.

One ferry user group official said that the introduction of the system had been "plagued with issues from the get-go" and said it was "unbelievable" that problems remained.

He said: "It is another chapter of apologies about our ferry services that we can do without.  We can but hope that the issues will be resolved sooner rather than later."

Moves for the provision of a new ticketing system to replace the outdated one first emerged in October, 2013, when the ferry operator issued an invitation to tender.

The project called Ar Turas (Our Journey) was to revolutionise the way in which CalMac interacts with customers, making travel simpler and easier and replace an existing 25-year-old ticketing process.

There had previously been growing concern about how long it had taken for the system to materialise, and how it has affected the costs of the project, which some have complained was couched in too much secrecy.

A resurrected attempt to bring in a system which began over four years ago hoped to have a core first phase of a system in place by the summer of 2020.

Ministers were told that after a series of further delays it was not expected till the spring of this year.

Last week, Mr Drummond replied to a number of other Twitter accounts reporting problems purchasing tickets, including tweets from the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee who said: “Crashed is not entirely accurate. ‘Bug ridden’ more so. Only five sailings viewable per route despite many more timetabled.

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“Accounts not working. Concession cards not accepted. Confirmations not arriving. Local offices have gone back to paper backup. Call centre not answering.”

In his response to the committee, Mr Drummond added: “While 5000+ new bookings before 1100 and all sailings operating, there has been some access and payment issue which we are addressing with our partners. This was anticipated and we have a full care team working 24/7 responding to all queries.”

Now CalMac have said that a small proportion of migrated customer accounts have been affected where the account may not be visible to the customer through the internet.

"The supplier is working to find a solution for this issue, to be introduced as rapidly as possible this week," CalMac said.

Customers’ receipt of emails was delayed in some cases by email services such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft "automatically deferring delivery" because of a volume of emails from a new source, CalMac said.

After some delays, 97% of emails relating to bookings migrated from its previous Compass platform or sent following a new booking since launch were delivered, it said.

CalMac is also working through "network disruption and reduced capacity on some sailings, which it chose to manage in the new system and is conflating some of the pressures".

The ferry operator said booked customers are being offered new sailings where possible, or refunds.

CalMac's promo video for the new system.

"Several bookings migrated to the new platform did not have account or email information which is slowing this process," CalMac said.

The delayed system was said to be a factor in delays over the production of vital summer lifeline island ferry timetables which were put off by up to three months, with concerns about the affect on tourism.

CalMac had hoped to have a new ticketing system in place for winter 2015 as part of a business modernisation project put in place to help it retain an eight-year contract for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service.

But the system ended up being at the centre of a legal row, and in 2018, a judge at the Court of Session ordered IT firm ATOS IT Services to pay £1.2m in compensation to David MacBrayne, owners of CalMac, over a dispute over the provision of a ticketing system.

Lawyers for the ferry operator argued that ATOS breached the terms of a contract made with them by failing to provide the new reservation system. ATOS argued it had acted properly and that David MacBrayne had “materially contributed” to delays and failures by failing to fulfil certain responsibilities, including setting out the detail which was needed to full the contract requirements, including approving specifications and requesting items that were not in the scope of deal. This was denied by David MacBrayne.

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Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: “I am sorry for any inconvenience caused to our customers since the launch of our new booking and ticketing platform, and I would like to thank them for their continued patience and support.

“Please be assured that we remain focused on working with our technology and payment suppliers, and our teams are working around the clock. We are confident that issues experienced will be resolved, and over time the advantages of the new system will become more obvious both to our customers and our staff."