The press release below has just come in from the Scottish Government. Because this is an issue of concern and interest to so many here in Argyll and along the west coast, we are simply publishing it for information. The report itself can be downloaded directly from the foot of this article.
We will comment on the report itself when we have had time to read and analyse it;
With the government under general pressure for poor performance just now and with the October 2014 independence vote looming, getting this long overdue final report out now and offering nothing but giveaways all round is a fairly barefaced political strategy.
There is no mention of how all of these will be paid for, barring a note that they will all be subject to Spending Review.
But for immediate information the government press statement is reprinted below in full and here, immediately below, are the headline decisions given in an accompanying summary list described as: ‘ Final Ferry Plan timeline; Short-Term improvements (2013)’:
- We will provide two vessels for Arran all summer (May to September) resulting in an increased number of sailings;
- We will introduce a new summer only pilot ferry service between Campbeltown and Ayrshire, via Arran – 3 days per week;
- We will improve the winter service between Oban and Coll and Tiree.
- We will improve the winter service between Oban and Barra/South Uist;
- We will provide a significantly improved service to the Small Isles;
- We will offer on a pilot basis an additional later evening sailing to Cumbrae;
- We will extend the operating day on the Colintraive-Rhubodach service until 9 pm all year round; and
- As a temporary step we will for the summer months introduce a service on a Saturday from Colonsay, via Islay, to Kennacraig
These changes will drastically improve the provision of ferry services to a number of our island and remote communities.
Then, in a list described as: ‘Medium term (2014-2016) during procurement of new Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) contract’, is the following:
By purchasing a second small passenger-only vessel during the course of the interim CHFS contract period we will be able to:
- Provide an increased level of service to the Small Isles, supplementing regular ro-ro services with passenger only services. We will ensure that the ro-ro service continues to provide the Small Isles with a fully adequate service for vehicles and freight;
- Provide a dedicated vessel to Colonsay – increasing the number of sailing days in both the summer and winter; and
- Provide a dedicated vessel for Mull during the winter period – offering an increased frequency of sailings.
- Subject to the service transferring to Scottish Government, we will offer zero fares between Jura and Islay when that journey is part of an onward journey to the mainland;
And then, in a list headed: ’2016-2022 following award of new CHFS Contract’ is the following:
During the course of the next tendered CHFS contract period our plan is to secure an additional vehicle and passenger vessel for the network. This will allow us to:
- Provide a second vessel for Mull allowing for increased frequency all year;
- Continue to provide an improved winter service between Oban and Coll and Tiree;
- Continue to provide an improved winter service between Oban and Barra/South Uist;
- Provide an additional vessel on the Ardrossan-Brodick route during the winter which can [Ed: note 'can' not will'] also provide the Campbeltown-Ayrshire service during the winter (subject to the outcome of the pilot).
All proposals are subject to future Spending Review commitments.
For Argyll would immediately note that the promise to ‘improve’ – without detail – can mean anything from cleaning the shipboard lavatories more regulartly to adding a scheduled service.
The Scottish Government statement
The Scottish Government has published its Final Ferries Plan today, setting out short medium and long term improvements over the next decade, as well as a commitment to retain all existing essential services.
In addition, Campbeltown will see a new ferry service to Ayrshire via Arran. We also intend to pilot a weekend air service between the Mull of Kintyre and Glasgow over the next two summers, and ensure the maintenance of additional summer air services between Barra and Tiree and Glasgow.
And talks are to start with Argyll and Bute Council to consider a case for trunking the A83 from Campbeltown to Kennacraig, joining the Kintyre peninsula with Scotland’s trunk road network.
Minister for Transport & Veterans, Keith Brown said:
“The long term future of ferry services in Scotland is vital not only for Scotland’s economic wellbeing but also for the people in our island and remote communities. Having concluded an extensive consultation which saw over 2000 responses, today we are laying out how we will expand and improve ferry services across Scotland.
“Despite the substantial financial pressures placed on us by Westminster, we are determined to make good on our promise to deliver improved ferry services on a progressive basis and the Final Ferries Plan will be our cornerstone in doing just that.
“The plan identifies 15 new vessels to come into service between now and 2025 worth over £295 million, the first of which was launched this week on the Clyde and due to be operational next summer. Over the same period we have also laid out an investment plan for port and harbour works worth £73 million, significantly enhancing our ferry infrastructure to meet new vessels demands and service improvements.
“In particular, ferry users in Jura, Islay and Colonsay will welcome the news that we plan to improve their services. For Colonsay we plan to introduce in the short-term an extra Saturday sailing in the summer from Colonsay to Kennacraig, and in the medium term more sailings between Colonsay and Oban – currently Colonsay has four sailing days in the winter which will increase to six.
“Subject to discussions with Argyll and Bute Council, we will introduce a zero fares proposal between Islay and Jura if travelling on to the mainland.
“We have offered to give short term grant support to Kerrera to ensure ferry services continue, while discussions with Argyll and Bute Council progress to find a long term solution to the ferry operations with the appropriate local road infrastructure development.
“Services from Oban to Coll and Tiree will see an extra sailing day during much of the winter timetable, with longer term plans to extend the operating day on services to Iona once new infrastructure is in place.
“The current passenger and vehicle services between Tobermory on Mull and Ardnamurchan will be retained as will existing services between Fishnish and Lochaline. And on the Mull-Oban-Craignnure route additional winter sailings will be provided in the short term with extra summer sailings provided in the longer term.
“We are also announcing today that the RET formula has been updated to reflect the current equivalent costs of driving a car. Fares for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles on services to the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree in 2013 will be updated, with the same formula being used to set fares in Islay, Colonsay and Gigha bringing consistency across all RET routes on the network.
“The additional revenue generated by applying the updated RET formula for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles will be reinvested in commercial vehicle fares, in order to reduce the impact of the removal of RET for commercial vehicles on services to the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree. We will also provide additional funding for commercial vehicles so that no fare will rise by more than 10% in 2013. The average increase for passenger, car and small commercial vehicle fares on these routes is 8.2% with the maximum on any individual route limited to 10.6%. And of course in order for RET to be sustainable, it has to be reviewed regularly.
“After a thorough consultation and detailed analysis of service provision, the final Ferries Plan will, I believe, give communities, businesses and visitors alike more services with the necessary vessels and infrastructure to match. We want to see real change for the better for those who rely so heavily on our ferry links, and those views, needs and aspirations have been foremost in our minds as we seek to take ferry services forward over the next decade with purpose, determination and vigour.”
Speaking about the new air routes and work to trunk the A83 between Campbeltown and Kennacraig, Mr Brown added:
“We recognise the importance of enhanced road and air links to Kintyre. Plans are now under way on a new pilot scheme for a weekend service out of Glasgow to Campbeltown over the next two summers to gauge the demand for whether these should be incorporated permanently into our route specification. Similarly we want to ensure that the additional summer services which had been provided over the past two summers for the communities of Barra and Tiree can continue and Transport Scotland will be discussing the detail with the current operator and with HIAL. All of these new developments will be welcomed by residents across Kintyre and indeed for those residents of Tiree and Barra who will also benefit from these extra connections.
“In addition in recognising the A83 as a lifeline I have asked that talks are taken forward with Argyll and Bute Council to develop a business case within which trunking the A83 between Campbeltown and Kennacraig can be considered.
“I look forward to seeing all of these developments come to fruition soon.”
Note: Here is a pdf of the final plan: Scottish Ferry Services Plan 2013-2022