With mounting concerns regarding the timing of the works to Ullapool Harbour to accommodate relief vessels for the MV Loch Seaforth, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil is asking that the work schedule be reviewed and perhaps consider postponing the work until next winter.
Angus MacNeil said:
“From my understanding, this work was not initially meant to happen this winter, but an opportunity has arisen to do it earlier rather than later. As I understand the matter, the MV Loch Seaforth will be able to use Ullapool Harbour as she is at the moment, as can the MV Isle of Lewis, but once the ramps on the Isle of Lewis are adjusted to be placed centrally on the vessel rather than offset, she will then be unable to use Ullapool Harbour as the link span is currently configured. Therefore, there would be no relief vessel able to use Ullapool Harbour should the MV Loch Seaforth encounter a breakdown.
“However, with the timing of the works taking us into the Easter Holidays and beyond Easter Weekend, we really have to ask whether the cure to the problem is now actually greater than the potential problem itself.
“I have spoken to a representative of the Outer Hebrides Tourist Industry Association (OHTIA), who informs me that this will adversely affect tourism and especially the B&B and self-catering operators in Lewis. There is also no guarantee that this work will be completed on time, which introduces another economic risk factor. Further, the OHTIA tell me that locals are already experiencing difficulty in booking ferries for the Easter period. While in some ways it is laudable that there are attempts to do the work earlier rather than later, the work should occur between January and March rather than February to April.
“It is imperative now that CMAL and CalMac quickly consult with local stakeholders, who so far have been ignored.”