CalMac have announced its ferry services to Scotland and the Scottish isles are being reduced by 61%, but it aims to retain current crew levels for the new 'essential lifeline' only timetable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new reduced timetable, starting Friday 27 March which will run for an initial three-week period, comes during a lockdown on all but essential travel across the whole of the UK. It covers sailings to the Firth of Clyde, Southern Hebrides, Outer Hebrides, Inner Hebrides, Skye, Rasay and the smaller isles.
CalMac says 'it will be subject to continual review in a rapidly changing environment, but we believe it is sustainable with our current crews'.
The new timetable replaces the planned move from a winter timetable to the normal summer timetable and will mean weekly sailings drop from 2,419 to 948 against the normal winter timetable – a drop of almost 61%.
All islands will receive a regular lifeline service ensuring essential goods and services are delivered.
In response to government restrictions, passengers travelling across CalMac's service were down by 85%, cars by 75% and commercial traffic by 45%. In 2019 daily passenger numbers at the end of March were around 9,500, compared to current levels of about 1,500 and these are expected to drop further.
Up to 8,000 bookings were cancelled through the dedicated contact centre teams compared to just 300 in the same period last year.
'We believe that this timetable will be able to maximise use of available crews for the vessels and continue to provide our vital lifeline service for communities,' CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said.
'These are extreme times for businesses across Scotland, the UK and indeed the world. As this virus spreads there is the chance that pressure on crewing may require us to make further changes.
'In this eventuality, we will work to our agreed route prioritisation matrix to ensure that all islands receive a service. We are in daily contact with the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland to ensure we are on top of all the latest advice and guidance.'
Last week CalMac announced it was not taking any new advanced bookings on any routes until at least 15 July. It has also stopped selling any food, drink or retail on board any vessels.