CalMac is to bring in extra staff to help support passengers who end up in long queues on the Largs Cumbrae route in South West Scotland.
Current restrictions on board due to the ongoing Covid crisis means average capacity across CalMac’s 34 strong fleet is running at around 35% compared to normal.
The extra staff will be on hand to assist and advise passengers on the route which, due to a combination of good weather and capacity restrictions required by social distancing, has seen lengthy waiting times recently.
Queues of up to three hours have impacted day trippers, tourists and islanders trying to get to and from the popular island of Great Cumbrae.
Between 2 and 8 August the Largs Cumbrae route carried 21,549 passengers and 5347 cars. On some of the busiest days day tripper tickets were stopped at 1pm to prevent people not being able to make it back to the mainland. To put that in context for the exact same period last year where there were no capacity restrictions and no stopping of tickets, the route saw 25,217 passengers and 4836 cars.
CalMac had offered to make the route bookable but this option was not taken up by community representatives from Cumbrae who preferred the “turn up and go” nature of the sailings.
Area Operations Manager (Clyde) Tommy Gore said: “The route between Largs and Cumbrae has always been popular, especially in good weather. However, the last few weeks have been almost unprecedented in terms of the sheer volume of people trying to take cars across to Cumbrae for the day.
“On two occasions now, we have had to stop selling day return tickets because we could not guarantee that day trippers taking the car over would be able to get back the same evening.
“The extra staff will work with us to keep people in the line informed about latest wait times, chances of getting across and back and ensuring everyone is adhering to physical distancing guidelines, especially in the foot passenger queues.
“We had offered to make the service bookable in line with other routes but the strong message from the community on Cumbrae was that they did not think this was workable and that a turn up and go service was preferable.”
CalMac has also reinforced its online messaging and is stressing across all its information platforms the pressures on the service and urging people to think about whether their journey is necessary.