FERRY services have been plunged into "chaos" with day trippers advised not to travel to Mull while ferry operator CalMac is bombarded with complaints over the newly launched ticketing system being riddled with issues.

More than 30 bugs and problems have been raised with CalMac over the new electronic ticketing system including some vessels being unable to sell tickets because their internet connection is inadequate.

The Mull and Iona Ferry Committee has reported issues with overbooking meaning that people who have had sailings bought in advance were having them cancelled.

Other problems reported included finding that some routes were wrongly stating that there were no sailings at all, the system listing ports that do not exist and repeated difficulties with users being unable to log into their accounts.

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Despite the charter for nine months of 'emergency vessel' MV Alfred at the cost to the taxpayer of £1m-a-month - services between Ardrossan and Campbeltown remain shut after being out of action for nearly a month.

While it is not due to re-open until June 1 - the Scottish Government-owned ferry operator CalMac has indicated there is a further review of deployment options due to a further delay to the annual overhaul programme.

The Mull and Iona Ferry Committee has raised concerns over a 'perfect storm' of lack of ferry capacity and a ticketing "fiasco" involving the introduction of a new system which they say has led to overbooking and caused problems with access to and from the island.

CalMac has promised to resolve the glitches to the new much-delayed £18m ticket system which was set up to make travel simpler and finally went live on May 17.


The service between Oban and Craignure on Mull has not had access to its major vessel, the 35-year-old MV Isle of Mull as CalMac shuffles its ageing fleet to allow for it to serve South Uist.

Its potential replacement the 27-year-old MV Isle of Lewis is meanwhile undergoing scheduled repairs.

This has left Mull's two-ferry service with MV Coruisk, which takes 40 cars and 200 passengers filling in for a vessel that can carry nearly five times the passengers and nearly double the number.

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Meanwhile MV Hebrides remains in dry dock in Liverpool while 38-year-old MV Hebridean Isles which has been hit with issues since Boxing Day remains out of action having been removed from the firing line on February 16.

CalMac told users of the Mull service on Tuesday that "due to the passenger volumes, we would not advise customers to travel on day trips to the island due to reduced availability on return sailings."

Joe Reade, chairman of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee said: "It is chaos. We have the ticketing issues, which is just a mess, combined with the reduction in capacity.


"The staff and ports cannot cope. They have been at their wit's end."

He said that CalMac frontline staff have struggled with the new software and have have done a "fantastic job in some really stressful circumstances".

He said the number and significance of the faults to the bug-ridden ticketing system "has been pretty shocking".

The committee have reported more than 30 different problems, many of which are minor, but others less so.

Other issues included child tickets not able to be bought without an accompanying adult - which caused difficulties for those going to and from school.

There was also concern over confusing ticket selection where it was possible to buy a trailer or bike rack ticket without a car.

Problems believed to have been largely resolved included the ticketing system being unusable on iPhones and some routes listing limited sailings when many more were offered per day.

"Online, the ticket system is really bug-ridden," said Mr Reade.

"What has happened is they seem to have oversold tickets for space they haven't got so they have to cancel a lot of bookings. People are reporting that bookings they have had for weeks or months have not been honoured.

"Some are cancelling holidays, they can't get away. It is just chaotic.

"What is unique about this is the ticketing fiasco on top of it all. It has been badly managed. It doesn't appear to be properly tested. It is an awful situation."

An online message to Mull islanders from the Craignure port team talked of "fiasco" in which people were "displaced from sailings". It says that if there is no booking and people were trying to chance it, they would have to be turned away.

"We here at Craignure are literally coming to work to help our community, not CalMac. Oban doesn't have that luxury of community spirit and this whole debacle has put them on the brink".

It advised users to treat Oban staff with the "same amount of love and appreciation you've shown us" adding that there were reports that they are "being treated horrendously".

A message said to be from one port team member, told islanders that the move to the ticketing system had been the "most challenging time of my 28 years as a CalMac employee".

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The Scottish Government-owned ferry operator has apologised for issues over the launch of its long-delayed booking and ticketing platform 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.

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.

CalMac's promo video for the new system.

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.

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."