In a performance that bucked the trend, the David MacBrayne Group, Scotland’s principal operator of domestic ferry services, has revealed that it paid back £5.8m to Government as a result of efficiency savings in the last financial year and increased its operating profitability by 19% to £3.8m.
The figures were published in the group’s annual report which was laid before the Scottish Parliament today (12th October 2012).
The Group’s subsidiaries include CalMac Ferries Ltd, NorthLink Ferries Ltd and Argyll Ferries Ltd.
Group Chairman Peter Timms says: ‘As recipients of significant amounts of public funding we take our responsibility to provide value for money to the taxpayer very seriously so it was very pleasing to report that our ongoing efforts to improve efficiency both internally and in collaboration with colleagues at Transport Scotland has resulted in just under £6m being returned to the Scottish Government as part of a contractual “clawback” payment.’
Highlights frm the report include:
- The David MacBrayne Group carried 5.2m passengers, 1.1m cars and 1.5 million freight metres – a 5% decrease in passengers and the same for cars, but a 6% increase in freight, on the previous year.
- Grants received from the Scottish Government rose by nearly 20% compared with the previous year to £121.8m, mainly due to increased fuel costs and support for Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) fares on Western Isles routes.
- Clawback paid to Scottish Government as a result of efficiencies increased by 33% to £5.8m
- The group recorded an operating profit for 2011/12 before interest and tax of £3.8m, an increase of 19% on the prior year, increasing the group’s retained reserves.
Mr Timms says: ’2011/2012 was a year of highs and lows. Among the high points was winning the tender to provide the ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon.
‘Losing the Northern Isles services to another operator after serving Orkney and Shetland for nearly 10 years was a major disappointment.
‘I wish to take this opportunity of thanking our crew and staff for their commitment and hard work which saw carryings on these routes significantly increase during our period of operation.’
While seeing the drop in passenger and car traffic as disappointing, Mr Timms says: ‘These figures reflect carryings across the group and the impact on individual routes will vary enormously, with some doing better than others depending on local circumstances such as major building projects.
‘That said, overall our feeling is that a combination of factors have contributed to a general decrease in traffic including fewer people travelling due to the economic downturn, higher fuel costs and poor weather.’
Looking to the future, Mr Timms said he welcomed the interim contract to extend CalMac’s current contract to 2016 and said that the company intended to use this period to improve services further.
He points here to the stellar hat trick achieved very recently by Calmac: ‘Our commitment to customer service was recognised recently by the award of the ‘Best Ferry Company’ in the Guardian and Observer Travel Awards for the third year in a row.
‘However there are a number of further improvements we would like to make to the customer experience such as updated ticketing systems and improved online booking.
‘We will now push ahead and make these improvements as soon as possible and look forward to working with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to further develop our services to best meet the needs of island and rural communities.’
This is the spirit the general public want to hear.
The Scottish Government can be seen to have an equivocal attitude to its own ferry companies. The MacBrayne group’s determination to be in the sort of spanking good shape by 2015 to bid powerfully to retain the 2016 contract for its own routes [Ed: yes, we know this timeline is procedurally curious] is the fighting talk that warms the cockles of their wealth of support amongst the traveling public.
A cracking business performance in tough economic times and a ‘down to work’ determination to see off allcomers leaves little room to manoeuvere for those who might seek to do so.
Note: The Annual Report of the David MacBrayne Group is available online here.