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Scottish Government minister thanks staff at Caledonian MacBrayne for their efforts on CalMac's west coast routes during the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown; ferry operator's routes include the route between Ullapool in Ross-shire and Stornoway on Lewis

By Philip Murray

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Paul Wheelhouse is shown some of the social distancing measures during his visit.
Paul Wheelhouse is shown some of the social distancing measures during his visit.

FERRY passengers have been urged to plan ahead when looking to travel on CalMac's network as the tourism sector reopens.

Restrictions on hotels, attractions and other businesses in the sector are lifted from today, but capacity is still limited across the country’s ferry networks due to physical distancing measures.

These restrictions include CalMac's popular Ullapool-Stornoway route.

And the Scottish Government's Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, has stressed that passengers should look to book their tickets ahead of their journey and follow guidance once on board.

Speaking during a visit to a CalMac site to thank staff for their hard work during lockdown, Mr Wheelhouse said: “I’d like to thank staff on all of Scotland’s ferry networks for their hard work, and passengers for following the travel guidance, which has allowed us to keep these vital transport links operating throughout the lockdown period.

“I’m pleased to see both CalMac and NorthLink increase their capacity with the move to one metre physical distancing, but it’s important to remember that capacity challenges will remain as a result of these measures that are required to protect public health.

“Passengers can continue help ferry operators by booking ahead and spreading their journeys across the full daily timetable to avoiding peak sailings. As always, there will be busy periods and people may need to be flexible. Please be understanding with ferry staff, who will do their best to help you.

“By following this advice, we can help support our island economies whilst also continuing to protect each other from Covid-19.”

CalMac’s Director of Operations, Robert Morrison said: “All our staff have done a fantastic job during this emergency in keeping communities safe while ensuring lifeline services continue to keep island communities and economies running.

“As we move gradually out of lockdown and our capacity increases, there will be new challenges around insuring tourists can get to where they are going while continuing to keep islands safe. Our staff have a difficult job to do at this time and I would urge the travelling public to be patient and understanding when interacting with them.”
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