Forcing ferry passengers with a vehicle booking to arrive at the port at least an hour before a scheduled sailing between Stornoway and Ullapool is an ‘unacceptable demand’ says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.
Mr MacNeil is writing to CalMac to urge them to look at ways of shortening the check-in process rather than lengthening it and to look at the introduction of an online option.
After huge investment in a faster ferry (£42 million) and improving pier infrastructure at Stornoway and Ullapool, an additional 15 minutes will be added to the check-in time for vehicle drivers from the start of the winter timetable.
The reason for the change is to reduce congestion in Ullapool where currently traffic disembarking from MV Loch Seaforth meets traffic arriving at the port to check-in. The plan is to ensure that all vehicles are parked up before the vessel unloads.
Mr MacNeil says there is frustration about the time increase and he is calling for a review of the decision.
He said : “Huge investment has been made in a faster ferry on this route with the new MV Loch Seaforth and infrastructure changes at Stornoway and Ullapool and customers are now being forced to park up for an hour before the sailing because of a traffic issue.
“They want passengers in the car park even before the ferry arrives but they have to look at other solutions to this marshalling issue as it is making outrageous demands on the travelling public.
“Check in times on this route will increase the total length of that journey. CalMac should look at introducing online check in and other solutions to shorten the check-in process, not lengthen it.”
Mr MacNeil is also asking CalMac for details of their plans to move to e-ticketing for all passengers.
He said: “In the 21st century, an e-ticketing option should be available as it is on air, bus and rail travel.”
Ferry services in many other parts of the UK have much shorter check-in times than Na h-Eileanan an Iar services. NorthLink Ferries to Orkney and Shetland recommend an hour to passengers but check in does not close until 30 minutes before departure. Irish Ferries from the UK to Ireland have a check in of 30 minutes before departure and one hour for Ireland-France.