CalMac chief slammed by islanders for flying to meeting about ferry services

Islanders say they are ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ after CalMac’s chief executive flew to Benbecula instead of taking the ferry for a meeting about the unreliable service.

Robbie Drummond and several other CalMac executives jetted out to Uist back in June to meet with locals, who are frustrated over the performance of the ferry operator.

The MV Lord of the Isles, which usually operates the most direct route, was redeployed most of the month, so islanders were forced to travel longer distances to their destination.

Lord of the Isles ferry in the sea.
The Lord of the Isles was redeployed. Image: Allan Milligan.

CalMac has come under fire for years over its unreliability due to its operating vessels well beyond their lifespan as they continue to wait for two hugely delayed ferries.

The meeting on June 20 was to hear concerns after the majority of the ferry services were impacted by mechanical faults with ageing vessels.

Darren Taylor, chief executive of the South Uist community landlord group, Stòras Uibhist, said the islanders deserve a reliable ferry service.

He said: “It is disappointing, but not at all surprising, to read that Robbie Drummond flew to the meeting rather than using the ferry.

Darren Taylor says it is not surprising the CalMac chief decided to fly down to South Uist.
Darren Taylor says it is not surprising the CalMac chief decided to fly down to South Uist. Image: Darren Taylor.

“Given the sailings to Lochboisdale were cancelled at the time, he would have had to do the same as islanders and fight to get a place on the Lochmaddy ferry.

“Even if he managed to get a ticket at short notice when most sailings were sold out weeks in advance, he would then have had to add an extra 150 miles and many extra hours to his journey…something that was a day-to-day reality for our community at the time and is still a constant threat hanging over us.”

CalMac defend decision

This was Mr Drummond’s second meeting in June, with a CalMac spokeswoman noting that he had travelled by ferry on the previous occasion.

She said: “Our travel policy requires the most economical travel route and on some limited occasions, flying can be the most efficient way for our staff to travel.

“Five out of the seven employees who attended the public meeting with South Uist residents on June 20 travelled by ferry.

“However, due to other work and personal commitments and a tight timeframe, two members of staff flew to Benbecula to ensure that they could attend the meeting.

“At the meeting in South Uist, we pledged that our executive team will spend more time in the islands, and seek to employ more island-based colleagues, and central to this pledge is a commitment to travelling on our network wherever possible.”

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