Sunday, 7 August 2016

Ferry Chaos

From Ricky Clark:
At 1810 I received a message from Mingary Castle telling me that there was a large queue at the ferry extending back to the toilet block so I decided to pay a visit. As the photo shows there were an awful lot of vehicles waiting, 38 to be exact. Our wee ferry can take 10 tops.

The ferry arrived at exactly 1835, and the 8 vehicles onboard disembarked and had to park up as there was nowhere for them to go as the road was blocked.

The CalMac lads started talking to the vehicle drivers about what was going to happen. It then took until 1905 before boarding began, this taking place among much arm-waving and debating between drivers and CalMac staff.

Even with this level of scrutiny someone managed to sneak his car in front of some earlier arrivals in the queue which sparked some heated debate between drivers and CalMac staff. These lads, who do a sterling job on our wee ferry, do not deserve to be spoken to in such manner. They are only doing their jobs.

They did manage to cram 11 cars onto the ferry with all the passengers being asked to leave the vehicles and board as foot passengers. This allowed the cars to be parked closely together to allow as many to board as possible. With 11 vehicles onboard this left 45 vehicles with nowhere to go.

The ferry eventually left at 1920, but immediately came back in to pick up one last foot passenger who had been left behind in the confusion whilst parking his car up. He joined the 12 other cars which had been abandoned in Kilchoan for the night at least. The ferry then left the pier 33 minutes behind schedule.

 Five of the vehicles left behind were left in their original place in the ferry queue area.

I only saw two cars still sitting in the queue with passengers in them. The other 9 vehicles had turned around and left after becoming aware that there would be no more crossing this evening.

It seems that this situation had arisen not only because of the cheaper ferry fares, which seem to have brought many standings at either side of the crossing with so many cars and campervans using the ferry now - far too many in my opinion - but because the Lochaline ferry had broken down this afternoon and the staff had advised drivers to come to Kilchoan to catch the ferry here. This was a bad move on their part as 26 vehicles in convoy made their way to Kilchoan to catch the last ferry of the day, a ferry which as I said earlier only takes 11 vehicles.

What are we going to do about this situation? I do not think anyone envisaged the problems that the RET ferry fares would bring to us. Mull is imploding under the pressure of vehicles. I have been told there is the capacity for 240 cars to go onto Mull every hour from Oban!

All accommodation here in Kilchoan was full, so at least 13 vehicles carrying who knows how many people were left without accommodation for the night.

Many thanks to Ricky for brilliant reporting & pictures.


  1. Our sympathies are with the actual staff who had to deal with this carryon - but does all this point to deeper problems within CalMac?

  2. As you say, a bad decision at Lochaline to recommend Kilchoan as an alternative. Their ferry, the Loch Fyne can take up to 36 cars and ours, the Loch Linnhe can only take 10 (apparently now 12 at a squeeze) with no arrangements to make extra crossings.

  3. A good wee story indeed,your opinion that there is to many motor homes because of the introduction of RET is in my opinion misplaced. Under the terms of the recently awarded 8 year contract to CalMac every run needs to be able to make a profit, no more subsidissed runs. Only last week a senior CalMac official made the crossing on foot to assess the situation for himself & take his findings to head office. CalMac are very aware of the situation & as it is the first year of RET on this run will make arrangements to cope with lessons learnt.
    Its all good for everybody concerned & teething problems will be sorted.

  4. What does the RET abbreviation mean?

  5. Dear Anonymous (who obviously works for CALMAC)As regards the motorhomes your opinion is ridiculous. It is obvious (to anyone who's bottom points down) that there has been a huge increase in vehicle traffic since RET particularly of campervans. Oban-Craignure ferries are regularly fully booked thus diverting traffic to Loch Aline where a breakdown will lead to problems like this. It certainly was not good for those left behind with no where to stay. Suspect that "teething" problems will continue for many years. Where there is a backlog of vehicles like this surely we could expect CalMac to provide an extra run???

    1. To Anonymous....your wrong!!! the services do not have to make a profit it is covered under the "Community lifeline services" which are and will continue to be subsidised you think the Loch Nevis ferry which does the small island s makes a profit?.also the staff on all Calmac ferrys have to have hours of rest (comes under the Health and Safety Regulations.) if there were some extra (qualified) staff in Tobermory then they could possibly put on an other ferry,meantime the Kilhoen Ferry guys did a great job

  6. I agree it's a teething problem that NEEDS to be addressed, however nobody can predict the number of vehicles/folk wanting to holiday on the West of Scotland.
    may I remind the Muilleachs that these folk have to drive across the rest of Scotland to get to you, our roads are now busier than ever before, it's not just Mull

  7. Allison Garland7 August 2016 at 13:45

    I'd also like to add to the support of the staff on the Loch Linnhe who were just excellent when I took my car over from Kilchoan to Mull earlier in July. Although we'd all agree, Mull has benefitted from rising tourists, it was pointed out that the ferry was designed over 30 years ago, in an age when cars were much smaller and the pricing of the ferry dictated it's volume. Now as both cars are larger and capacity has not grown with demand, hopefully the visiting Cal Mac official can appreciate these factors when reviewing this service and helping both the customers and ferrymen out.

  8. Road Equivalent Tariff - it means, in theory, that you pay the same for the crossing from Kilchoan to Tobermory as if you had driven on a direct road between the two please. Jon

  9. RET seems to be causing these issues all over. I have customers on Arran and Cumbrae who report similar issues, particularly with larger cars and motorhomes. The Arran ones especially have major trouble getting off the island. They share the frustration of drivers not considering other road users and not utilising passing places for their true purpose. I'm sure many island communities and ferry ports welcome the additional tourist income however many of these smaller destinations just do not have the infrastructure to cope with the influx of people. It's not just that the roads can't cope, very often there is very little in the way of parking or toilet facilities. Definitely needs looking at by the powers that be.


  10. The guys on the Kilchoan ferry are doing a fantastic job under very trying circumstances. This route has had problems in the school holidays for many years with a limit of 75 foot passengers when in reality it can take 150 if calmac put another man on. The situation at 3.30pm in Tobermory is a scandal with 80 or 90 people waiting in the rain and fretting whether they will get on the 4pm ferry. I hate to think what it may be like for the last ferry at 6pm. A bigger shelter would help along with a fourth man during the school holidays. Trevor

  11. Well, ffs, it's obvious if the locals don't like it, then get rid of RET. Go back to how it was? But then, SNP/CalMac bad because of lost tourism business?