In 2013, the Scottish Transport Minister announced a three year winter pilot ferry service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale. The pilot service began in November 2013 and has been operating over five months of the year (mid-November to late March / early April inclusive).
Transport Scotland commissioned a process evaluation of the Mallaig to Lochboisdale winter pilot ferry service. The aim of the evaluation was to use the monitoring data and the views of users and stakeholders to learn lessons from the pilot by gathering feedback on a number of specific research questions.
While the pilot service was initially welcomed, subsequent high numbers of cancellations combined with a lack of detailed information about the reasons for cancellations has led to disappointment and speculation. During the interviews, a number of questions were raised by residents, businesses and other stakeholders, particularly:
- Whether the service was ‘designed to fail’?
- Whether the ‘adverse weather’ status is being used in place of other reasons for cancellations?
- What the ‘adverse weather’ status actually means?
- Why there is an apparent lack of flexibility and priority shown to the service that is not seen in relation other services?
Other issues which respondents would like to see addressed include:
- Better integration with other ferries, in particular, the Eriskay to Barra service.
- Better integration with public transport at Mallaig.
- More direct consultation with residents and businesses over timetabling to ensure sailing times meet the needs of residents, businesses and tourists.