FERRY users have appealed to CalMac to release an ageing ferry to help out in a row over travel to Mull which has led to users being advised to go on a detour of over 100 miles

Ferry services have been in a state of "chaos" while the Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator was bombarded with complaints over the newly launched ticketing system being riddled with issues.

It comes as it emerged that the key ferry for Mull is not expected to make a return for the whole of this weekend.

The Mull and Iona Ferry Committee has appealed to CalMac to make use of  the 36-year-old MV Loch Linnhe which can take 200 passengers and 12 cars for the stricken route between Oban and Craignure on Mull.

They say that due to limitations on its use by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency she is unable to work to and from Craignure.

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They say she has been stationed in Lochaline while there has been no traffic for her to carry.

"We have asked CalMac to request an emergency extension to her plying limits from the MCA. That could enable her to work between Mull and Oban; but the likelihood that would be possible in the next few days is slim," said the group.

It comes as the group has been told that there are "not entirely unexpected" delays in the return of its key vessel the 35-year-old MV Isle of Mull because the dry-docking of MV Hebrides is taking longer than expected - a situation that has hit a string of vessels in the CalMac fleet in recent months. It is not now due to return till Sunday.

"This continues the capacity crunch for another day, into the busiest day of the week," said the user group.

The Isle of Mull has been the victim of a CalMac shuffle of its ageing fleet to allow for it to serve South Uist.

Its potential replacement the 27-year-old MV Isle of Lewis has meanwhile been 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.

Also out of action is 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.

Concerns arose after 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".

The advice was rescinded on Wednesday.

But CalMac have warned that due to "ongoing disruptions and the unprecedented demand on this route, traffic prioritisation is in place".

They have been advising since Monday that passengers travel on the route from Lochaline to Fishnish on Mull "where possible".

To get to Lochaline from Oban takes nearly three hours and 108-miles by road via the A861.  

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One ferry user group official said: "It is an almighty mess.  You do not want to deter day trippers for a start.  It just shows the state of the network when these advisories are made.  It all seems so simple to take a different ferry - until you realise how far you have to go to get it.   

"Despite the introduction of MV Alfred, the problems remain, not helped by the state of the new booking system.

It comes after 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 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.

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.

Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: “Delays to the annual maintenance schedule meant that there is currently a short term constraint on service capacity between Oban and Craignure. We expect a full service to return to this route from this Sunday with MV Isle of Mull returning from Lochboisdale to join MV Loch Frisa, and with MV Lord of the Isles providing service on Sunday morning.


“We made it a priority to find the best solution for customers including the addition of a second vessel running to and from Mull via Lochaline-Fishnish. However, due to the closure of Castlebay linkspan, our vessel deployment options are limited, which is impacting on the support we can offer.

“We have investigated the feasibility of operating an additional service from Oban-Fishnish but this would require MCA approval, which would take several days to be approved.

“We apologise for the current disruption and are confident that normal service will return this weekend.”