CalMac Ferries Ltd held a press session this morning, 7th March 2016, to announce that it has submitted its final bid to run the Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services. The tender process is now closed.
CalMac’s confident MD declared the company’s bid to be ‘outstanding’ and pledged ‘to deliver the best service yet’.
The long time and state-owned operator of these services chose a venue for this announcement that could hardly be more appropriate to their business. Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Transport Museum on the Clyde in Glasgow is groundbreaking in both design and engineering. It’s location is cheek by jowl with both the relics of the former shipbuilding industry with which the Clyde is synonymous; and the remaining BAE systems yards in operation at Govan and Scotstoun.
Out of sight is Ferguson Marine at Port Glasgow which the state owned maritime asset holder, CMAL, supplier of the ferry fleet to the CHFS operator, has used to build thee diesel-electric hybrid ferries and from whom it has ordered two new 100m dual fuel ferries.
CalMac’s managing director Martin Dorchester said this morning that he is confident the bid now in will make the firm a clear winner when a decision is made in a few months’ time.
The current contract expires in September this year and the Scottish Government’s transport agency, Transport Scotland, has been running a stop-start competitive process to select a provider of the services from 1st October 2016, for an eye-popping period of up to eight years. It was halted in the approaches to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, lest the decision Transport Scotland were then minded to make cost angry pro-indy voters to turn away.
In the tende, CalMac is theoretically up against one other bidder for the £1 billion contract – the private sector Serco Caledonian, whose final bid was submitted a few weeks ago – marked by a public letter of thanks to islanders who had contributed insights and requests which had helped to shape that bid.
This tender has been a ludicrously protracted and unedifyingly highly political process of challengeable fairness in which most were surprised that Serco chose to continue [with a For Argyll reader describing the company’s letter noted above as ‘an obituary to their bid’.
Scottish Ministers also chose to postpone the announcement of the winning bidder until late May – once again prioritisong political protection should the decision ruffle feathers. The Scottish Parliamentary Election takes place on 5th May 2016.
Martin Dorchester, says: ‘I believe the bid we submitted last week is an outstanding piece of work and makes a compelling case for CalMac to win this hugely important contract. I’m confident we will be the clear winner when a decision is reached in May and, if so, I’m determined that we’ll deliver our best service levels yet.
‘We’re very proud of CalMac’s rich heritage, but I’m even prouder of the internationally-recognised, customer-focused, ambitious, multi-award winning company we’ve become. Across the network our staff and crews work tirelessly to provide an efficient, reliable, and modern service to the individuals and communities who depend upon us every day.
‘CalMac will always put the lifeline ferry services and the needs of the remote communities we serve above any commercial concerns. Operating on the west coast is our principal reason to exist. Nobody knows these routes better than us and providing 130,000 sailings a year in some of the most challenging waters in Europe is impressive by any standards. I believe that our vast knowledge and experience of these routes makes CalMac the best qualified and the only credible operator of them now and in the future.’