To the Editor – response to Karl & Lorna Hughes letter

letter to the editorWe have a great deal of sympathy with the difficulties experienced by the Hughes in getting ferry spaces at short notice during our busy summer period. This is not unique to Tiree and it is something we hear from other parts of our network.

Unfortunately reconciling the rival demands of islanders who often need to travel at short notice, with those of tourists who like to book well in advance is a challenge. Our contract with Scottish Government requires that bookings are taken on a first come, first serve basis and setting aside ‘islander-only’ spaces is far harder to manage than one might expect. For example how do we decide within an island community who should have priority, and if the spaces are not required, how and when do we decide to release them to open sale?

We are currently investing in a new online booking and ticketing system that will address some of the imperfections in our systems and that will be phased in towards the end of next year, although it will not address the fundamental issue that the Summer is our busiest time of year and many sailings will have been booked up well in advance .

We would encourage people who do not have to travel at the busy times, such as weekends, to consider travelling at other times and, during busy periods, it would also help everyone if customers advised us as timeously as possible of changed plans and cancellations to maximise what space we do have on the most popular sailings.

We would totally reject any claim that islanders are being treated as second class citizens, but sadly there is no quick fix to this perennial conundrum.

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