Scottish Ferry Services Plan 2013-2022 published

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

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42 Responses to Scottish Ferry Services Plan 2013-2022 published

  1. From the publication, specifically with reference to Islay the government seems to have totally ignored the environmental argument to reduce emissions and fuel consumption by running more services from Port Askaig.

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    • Paul
      if you bother to read it properly, you will see that the Scottish Government are responding to the near 75% of Ileachs who objected to this proposal. As an aside, I note that in the last Community Council minutes, you agreed that, should CalMac agree to keep the 2 vessel option, you would go no further with your ludicrous Islay Ferry sCompany uggestion. The Ferries Review quite clearly states that service to Islay will continue at the current level – as it would be impossible to do this without a 2 vessel service this is the guarantee you wanted.

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      • Don’t you just love people who don’t publish their name.
        I did in fact read it in great depth and not just for Islay & Jura. The 75% does not say how many responded or the part of the island who responded most. You may be interested that from the online survey, postal survey public meeting and a community council ward that 78% of islanders voted for and 22% against the IDEA of a community run ferry. So your personal quote of “ludicrous Islay Ferry Company” appears not so ludicrous after all.

        From the report the SG are costing more than £500m for 15 vessels and harbour works. Where is is coming from?? There is no “ferry godmother” throwing money around that I know of. There are no guarantees on anything as the caveat in the report is “subject to the funding being available.”
        For the record, the community ferry is not MY suggestion there are a large group of people involved…..I happen to support it and am not scared to put my name in the public domain.

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        • I don’t know the Islay and Jura situation but I would advise some caution.

          You are absolutely correct that it is very unclear where the money for ferries comes from. It is a huge gap in the plan.

          The possible danger of a community RUN ferry is that you might find that the onus for finding and raising the funding also lands on the community. If for any reason that fails then you can be sure the Government will shift the responsibility onto the community.

          The first sentence of the ferry plan is
          “Ferries are an essential part of Scotland’s transport network”. In what other part of the network is the funding so unclear?

          The total cost in the plan is £500M a fraction of the cost of the Forth Road Bridge which will be free to use. Think about Borders trains, sleeper trains, ring roads, Edinburgh trams – all consuming massive amounts of money.

          The idea of a community run ferry may be a good one but be cautious and ask why the Government is not leading the way and why funding is so vague.

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          • Here in South Islay the strength of opinion among the people i know ( which are many)it.s almost total for the con.tinuance of Cal Mac to run two ferries.I suggest the 78% comes from a band of brothers of a basically non indigenous background who bothered to vote.If it really came to a chance of us diluting the status Quo.I’ve no doubt we would see a reversal of the 78%.As you can see i’m not afraid to put my name to this.After all what’s to be afraid of.

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  2. Rothesay-Wemyss bay, Dunoon-Gourock and Kilcreggan-Gourock are notable by their absence. Same old, same old then? More of the same mediocrity and erosion of service followed by ‘due to lack of use the service will be curtailed/cancelled’.

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  3. Does the upper Firth of Clyde services and routes not exist undere this SNP plan? No mention of Gourock – Dunoon – Wemyss Bay – Rothesay. Are there no plans for the re-instatement of the Calmac car ferry which most people want to see. No disrespect to Argyll Ferries Ltd , but these boats seem to be off service more nowadays.

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    • No Ferry Regulator to control prices either so Western are free to charge what they like till 2012. Meanwhile business problems in Dunoon are rapidly snowballing.

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      • 2 points on that,

        they are a private company not running a tendered route so personally dont have any problem charging what they want

        however, if you have a look at the plan i would read the footnote at the bottom of annex 4 where it states that a roll out of RET even to this route is intended

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        • Another point. Western fares rose this year less than CalMac put theirs up. So much for the conspiracy theories.

          And with RET applied to many of the shorter routes, fares could well rise in comparison to the savings presently available to multi-journey ticket holders. Beware what you wish for: it might come back and bite you.

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          • I did not mention RET I said there was no Regulator to set fares on the route till 2022 (sorry for earlier typo).

            However returning to RET; as I understand it its introduction can make fares fall but not increase.

            Regarding multi-journey tickets those are considered unfair because some people cannot afford to buy books of tickets to obtain the discount. The intention therefore obviously seems to be that you would buy a single ticket at the discount price.

            Leaving the fares on an essential ferry crossing at the whim of a private company for 10 years does not seem like a smart move.

            Dunoon is already reeling from the loss of the town centre vehicle service.

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  4. Campbeltown to Ardrossan via Arran summer only – was not what was wanted so when itis not used we will be told no-one wants a ferry service to the mainland – so we will stop it. Do they ever listen t what the public wants?

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  5. I warmly welcome a weekend air service to Glasgow from Campbeltown and a ferry service to Ayrshire . If they go ahead they will help transform Campbeltown for the better .Well done all concerned .

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  6. Asda Ardrossan are selling petrol today at 128.7ppl compared to Campbeltown 139.9ppl . Fill the car up in Ardrossan and you have saved £7 towards the ferry fare + easily the same on groceries .Could this be the end of the rip off in Campbeltown?

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  7. Whatever the basis used to calculate fares, it is not “Road Equivalent Tariff”. That would be 45p per mile for a passenger vehicle.

    So the 63 miles from Oban to Tiree should be £28.35 (£0.45 x 63). In fact, it is £56.75double what an RET fare should be.

    All fare reductions and discounts are welcome, of course. But it’s wholly misleading to call the current scheme a ‘road equivalent tariff’ system.

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  8. More evidence, if it were needed, that the Gourock-Dunoon and Gourock-Kilcreggan services are Cinderellas doomed to wither on the vine; the proposals for pontoons are ridiculous, a joke that will be unusable more often than not in winter and stand a good chance of being destroyed by a good storm. The pontoon drawings reveal the full idiocy on offer.

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    • The plan shows that for £3M you can build pontoons in both Dunoon and Gourock. Nowhere does it say that the pontoons will improve the ferry service!

      Many of the complaints raised concerning pontoons in Dunoon are confirmed by the report, particularly by the Pilot’s comments;

      Some options will not operate in all tidal conditions.

      The pontoon design is linked to the boats that will be using them – entrenching the current failed service.

      Complex interactions are expected between the pier, pontoons and linkspan and further studies are required to determine the effects.

      Waves and spray might break over the pontoons.

      Boats might collide with the pontoons.

      The pontoons will restrict other vessels using the linkspan.

      In short pontoons are a complete nonsense. What is required is larger ferries be they vehicle ferries or passenger only. There was an excellent article in the Observer recounting how in the 1980s the Highland Seabird was rejected as a passenger only vessel because she would not be reliable in the weather despite being larger than the current bathtubs.

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      • you have pointed out that the pontoons will restrict other vessels using the linkspan, how will this affect things at gourock? Gourock is the designated port of refuge for both the Arran and Bute ferries, so will that mean more disruption to the services for these islands i wonder?

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        • It shouldn’t affect Gourock’s role as a refuge at all; the cheapo pontoon that has been drawn up does not obstruct the linkspan, and there is the quayside east of the linkspan available for mooring other vessels.

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        • The report does not seem to mention any issues at Gourock. However the Council own the infrastructure in Dunoon and the Pilot’s notes contrate on Dunoon, so its possible Gourock has not been looked at in the same detail.

          The main point though is the report shows the pontoons would cost £3M with no stated service improvement and lots of potential issues identified.

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          • ‘with no stated service improvement’ ferryman? – you seem to continue with your blinkered view of anything that doesn’t provide for vehicles. The whole reason why the use of pontoons evolved worldwide was to provide much easier and safer access for pedestrians to boats, and that’s the whole point of them.
            I share various people’s concerns on the future of the Gourock – Kilcreggan service, but I have little sympathy for those who persistently demand the return of a vehicle ferry service between Dunoon and Gourock, because they don’t seem to understand the need for civilised pedestrian boarding facilities, and are devoid of constructive comment on this.
            The consultant’s comments on the need for breakwater protection for any pontoon at Gourock is no surprise at all, given the degree of exposure of this wharf, but I think that a breakwater would be a worthwhile long-term investment for efficient passenger links to Dunoon and Kilcreggan – and will eventually have to be built, even if the European authorities no longer help in steering their Scottish counterparts toward sensible transport infrastructure investment.

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  9. Disappointing lack of transport joined-upness; I alighted from the Kilcreggan-Gourock ferry yesterday at 1108(on time), in time to see the 1108(also on time) train leave the station. On the plus side it was departing from platform 1.

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  10. I appreciate that some of you have not got what you wanted but thankfully, following the earlier debacles of the public meetings, Mull has by and large got what it wanted, if not totally, as far as the Craignure – Oban run is concerned. I’m delighted that there’s a guarantee to retain the vehicle and passenger service between Tobermory and Kilchoan and that they’ve also seen sense over the Fishnish – Lochaline route. Everyone who commented and stood up in favour of retaining the status quo on these two routes should give themselves a big pat on the back!

    Mull is not going to get RET for a while yet, but the continuation of the nine day saver return for those visiting the island will hopefully help.

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  11. The final ferries plan is much,much better than the abomination of a draft plan published in Dec 2011 , and is possibly achievable on a limited budget if ministers rein in CMAL’s habit of spending money for the sake of it. I agree that most communities have got want they expressed a preference for , the exceptions seem to be
    1) Mallaig-Lochboisdale
    2) Lismore – the infrastructure and public subsidy for transport links seem unafforadable and unsuitable for a sole link to Port Appin.
    3) Using Port Askaig as the main ferry port on Islay. Pot Ellen is too weather-dependant ; unsuitable for Jura residents and futher away from Mundell’s yard.

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    • Last time I checked Mundells ran a haulage company that used the ferries to transport goods to and from Islay so what does the distance from Mundells yard to Port Ellen have to do with anything? Do P&O make sure that their piers are close to haulage companies? Port Ellen is the main port on the island, there is more in Port ellen which is accessable by foot passengers and the Ferries Review has responded to the wishes of the Islay respondents by maintaining the status quo.

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      • Fair enough, An Ileach, but it seems to be a fact of life that docking at Port Ellen is more weather-sensitive than at Port Askaig, and everyone just has to live with that. And don’t forget that it’s not just Islay to be considered – the Calmac service is important for Jura as well.

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  12. Fair comments in the two replies above. However , how many times have the vessels had to divert to Port Askaig since Port Ellen reopened – plenty according to Calmac’s service status. Also , I wonder what the Ileachs views would be if RET had been applied logically and higher fares charged on Kennacraig-P.Ellen compared to Kennacraig-P,Askaig , as the distance sailed is greater.
    My earlier reference to Mundells was that , at least a few years ago , hauliers could not simply leave loaded CLVs lying about the country , so the environment would suffer by having HGVs running around Islay , never mind the road surfaces.

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