Tiree is still open for business.
The linkspan may be closed for replacement, but in every other way Tiree is open for business. The twice daily plane service from/to Glasgow is still operating, the internet is still working, the ferry is still sailing (albeit for foot passengers only), the crofters are still hard at work and the land and seascape are just as appealing as ever. There is real beauty and drama even when it is stormy.
Delayed by a week the linkspan closed to vehicles on Thursday the 27th of February, 2020. The closure was delayed by exactly a week due to the run of stormy weather that has battered the West Coast of Scotland and which led to cancellations across the whole CalMac Ferry Network – including the cancellation of several crossings to Tiree. Additional sailings were put in place to ensure the transport of essential freight items before the closure of the linkspan came into effect.
The additional sailings to Tiree involved in the first place the MV Isle of Mull assisting the MV Lord of the Isles. Then with the return of the MV Clansman from her annual overhaul, the ‘Clansman’ made two crossings in a day on several occasions. The latter led to some of the crossings taking place at least partially during the hour of darkness.
On the occasion of Thursday’s final crossing, true to form the arrival of the MV Clansman was accompanied by ‘a berthing shower’. Understandably the inbound traffic was limited as no-one wanted their vehicle trapped on the island for the duration of the foot passenger only service. Significantly the Oban bound traffic was almost entirely commercial vehicles.
MacClennan Motors Ltd have several contacts to carry freight to the island including deliveries to the Co-Op. CMAL have stated, “We will try and accommodate all requests for freight movements, however there may be restrictions in what can be carried and it would be helpful if major shipments of material could be avoided during these works.” Deliveries will still be carried out to the Co-Op and Buth a’ Bhaile but not by lorry. A small vessel will carry containerised goods as required. A mobile crane has arrived to off load the small containers.
The honour of having the final vehicle to make use of the linkspan before it was replaced belonged to IA MacKinnon Haulage and was in fact one of his famous piggyback lorries. (One empty lorry is transported piggyback style on top of another).
It felt like we were witnessing a historic moment as the MV Clansman raised her stern ramp for the final time from the original linesman before it is replaced in the coming days.
CMAL state, “We understand the vital and lifeline link the ferry service provides to the island and our aim is to minimise the disruption to normal life on the island as far as possible. Working with CalMac, we reviewed capacity numbers and selected the periods of lowest traffic to minimise the impact of the linkspan closures.
On the 26th of February, via Marine Traffic‘, the crane barge ‘Lara 1’ was observed departing the River Clyde bound for Tiree. Following a posting by Lifeontiree on Facebook concerning this Ewen McGee commented, Wishing Tiree a quick and successful linkspan replacement, especially a favourable weather window. The travels of Lara 1 fascinated me. A few days ago she exited Rothesay Dock, crossed the Clyde, nipped up the Cart (having had the old bascule bridge at Inchinnan hoisted for her), paused at a quay which was new to me (‘level’ with Glasgow Airport), and then back down the Cart and into Rothesay Dock. The new quay seems to serve a company – Malin Engineering – which possibly engineered the new linkspan?
At 8;10 on Friday the 28th of February the crane barge ‘Lara 1’ arrived at the pier in Gott Bay. Before 8:00am the contractors workforce were hard at work. For several days they have been involved in preparatory work for the replacement of the linkspan.
The work is scheduled to take 4 weeks but this is very much weather dependent. After a few days respite from the stormy weather ‘Lara 1’ was accompanied into the bay with numerous ‘white horses’. There was a swell running and it has got worse as the day progressed. The wind has risen once again and Saturday’s ferry is on an alert for possible disruption or cancellation at short notice.
Throughout the work on replacing the linkspan, which had come towards the end of its serviceable life, Tiree remains open for business. For those who need to come to the island and require transport there is a Ring and Ride bus service and car hire is available.
You may want to turn down or mute the sound on the video clip as it was breezy!