Technical issue halts CalMac ferry service between Tarbert and Portavadie

Ferry breakdown leaves passengers stranded

A ferry service that connects Tarbert and Portavadie on the west coast of Scotland has been suspended indefinitely due to a technical issue with the vessel. The MV Isle of Cumbrae, which operates the route, suffered a malfunction on Monday and has not been able to resume service since then.

The ferry operator, CalMac, said it was investigating the cause of the problem and looking for alternative options to redeploy another vessel from elsewhere in the network. However, no timetable has been given for when the service will resume, leaving passengers who rely on the ferry for travel and business in limbo.

MV Isle of Cumbrae: A veteran of the seas

The MV Isle of Cumbrae, or Eilean Chumraigh in Gaelic, is one of the oldest vessels in CalMac’s fleet. It was built and launched in Troon in 1976 and has served various routes around the west coast of Scotland over the years.

The vessel initially served the Largs to Cumbrae route before moving to the Lochaline to Fishnish (Mull) and then the Colintraive to Rhubodach route. It finally settled in as the regular summer ferry on the Tarbert to Portavadie route, which it has been operating since 2016.

calmac ferry breakdown loch fyne

The MV Isle of Cumbrae can carry up to 143 passengers and 12 cars. It has a crew of five and a speed of 10 knots. It is named after the island of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde, which is also known as Great Cumbrae or simply Cumbrae.

Tarbert to Portavadie: A scenic and vital link

The Tarbert to Portavadie ferry service is one of the shortest and most scenic routes in CalMac’s network. It crosses Loch Fyne, a long sea loch that extends from the Firth of Clyde to Argyll and Bute. The journey takes only 25 minutes and offers stunning views of the surrounding hills and islands.

The ferry service is also a vital link for the communities on both sides of Loch Fyne. It provides access to essential services, such as health care, education, and shopping, as well as tourism and leisure opportunities. Many people use the ferry to commute to work or visit family and friends.

The Tarbert to Portavadie route is part of CalMac’s Hopscotch ticket scheme, which allows passengers to combine multiple ferry journeys into one ticket. The route is also popular with cyclists, who can explore the Kintyre Peninsula and Cowal Peninsula by bike.

CalMac: A lifeline for islanders

CalMac, or Caledonian MacBrayne, is the main ferry operator in Scotland, serving 28 routes and 53 destinations across the west coast. It carries over 5 million passengers and 1.4 million vehicles every year.

CalMac is owned by the Scottish Government and operates under a public service contract. It is responsible for providing lifeline services to remote and island communities, as well as supporting economic development and social inclusion.

CalMac has a fleet of 33 vessels, ranging from small passenger-only boats to large roll-on/roll-off ferries. It employs over 1,600 staff and has a turnover of over £200 million.

What next for stranded passengers?

CalMac has apologised for the inconvenience caused by the suspension of the Tarbert to Portavadie service and has advised passengers to check its website or social media channels for updates. It has also issued a red alert for the route, indicating that it is subject to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

Passengers who have booked tickets for the affected service can contact CalMac’s customer service team for assistance or refunds. Alternatively, they can use other modes of transport, such as buses or taxis, to travel around Loch Fyne. However, this may take longer and cost more than using the ferry.

It is not clear when the MV Isle of Cumbrae will be fixed or replaced by another vessel. Until then, passengers will have to cope with the uncertainty and frustration of not having a reliable ferry service between Tarbert and Portavadie.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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