CalMac Ferries is currently consulting local stakeholders on summer 2022 timetables. The results of the consultation will be considered before any decisions are taken. Community views are crucial to the process, so I encourage stakeholders to engage constructively with CalMac, and I encourage CalMac to reflect carefully on any implementable asks that come out of the process.
I thank the minister for his very helpful reply. He will be aware of concern in my constituency over proposed changes that would result in an overall reduction in the number of sailings from Lochmaddy and Tarbert. Will he comment on that and on why the consultation period for the issue was, apparently, so short?
Increasing demand on the route has led to CalMac deploying the mezzanine deck more frequently, which has led to challenges in the current timetable with loading and offloading. Any delays to sailings have knock-on effects, often requiring later sailings to be cancelled to ensure that crews get the required number of hours of rest. An option is therefore being developed to allow the mezzanine deck to be fully deployed with some amendments to timetables, resulting in the removal of the shoulder off-peak season and having a consistent timetable for the whole summer period. However, if the community does not want that, the summer 2021 timetable will remain in place, although the mezz deck will not be in operation in order to avoid delays and cancellations.
CalMac continues to engage on the proposals with the council, which is the agreed consultation group for Western Isles services, and Transport Scotland officials are liaising closely with CalMac on the matter. I hope that that offers Alasdair Allan some reassurance.
Graeme Dey will be aware that one of the services that are being cut runs on Saturdays, which is traditionally a changeover day for tourism businesses, meaning that changeovers will not take place. If the issue is crewing, will he allow CalMac to employ more crews so that the ferry can run more often, allowing changeovers to happen?
As I said, these are options that are being considered. We are aware that CalMac continues to engage, along with the local council, on these matters. I encourage the council to involve the local transport forum in discussions to see whether we can arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.