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Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services: Draft Service Specification

DescriptionClyde and Hebrides Ferry Services: Draft Service Specification. This is the response from the Scottish Executive.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 14, 2006





1. To comply with EC rules on state aid and the Maritime Cabotage Regulation the Scottish Executive is tendering the lifeline services for the Clyde and Hebrides. The European Commission has agreed that the services can be tendered as a single bundle with the exception of the Gourock-Dunoon service which is being taken forward separately.

2. In June 2004 the Minister for Transport announced that further consultation on the service specification for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services would be undertaken. Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services: Draft Service Specification - A Consultation Paper was issued in December 2004. That consultation document sought general views on timetables and services that would benefit users. It also specifically invited comment on services to the Small Isles, future ferry services to Lismore and the proposed ferry service between Mallaig -Lochboisdale and on the issues to be covered in the planned research.

3. In total some 705 responses were received from a range of organisations and individuals. The Executive is extremely grateful to all of those who took the time and trouble to respond to the consultation exercise. The responses received were invaluable to the Executive as it finalised the Service Specification for the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services. Details of comments received and respondees are available on the Scottish Executive website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Transport/ferries-ports-canals/14342/consult.

4. This paper is the Scottish Executive Response to that consultation. It sets out additional enhancements to be included in the service specification for the Invitation to Tender to be issued to the tenderers. It also details the service enhancements already implemented following the consultation and our proposals for future research to be undertaken during the new contract period.


5. In preparation for tendering the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) Caledonian MacBrayne was restructured on 1 October 2006 to form two separate companies. To protect publicly-owned vessels and infrastructure and ensure a level playing field for bidders Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL, previously referred to as VesCo) took ownership of the vessels and infrastructure (including harbours). CalMac Ferries Ltd (previously referred to as OpsCo) took over responsibility for operating the current CHFS network and will bid for the new contract.

Enhancements to be introduced from Winter 2006/07

6. On the basis of representations received the Executive fully considered the potential enhancements suggested in consultation responses. These considerations included an assessment of affordability, value for money and the operational impacts. Ministers have now concluded that the following enhancements will be included in the final service specification for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services. These improvements will be introduced when the new contract commences (expected to be in Autumn 2007):

  • Kennacraig - Islay

Respondents who commented on the services to Islay and Jura focussed on the lack of capacity on the route, particularly during the shoulder months, and the unsuitability of the current timetabling. To alleviate capacity constraints the double vessel service will be extended to cover the whole summer timetable. The enhancement to the Islay service will significantly alleviate current capacity problems, boost the economy, encourage tourism and provide benefits to the community.

In addition, and looking to the future, a new vessel, with increased capacity, will shortly be ordered for use on the Kennacraig - Islay route. The anticipated cost of this vessel is some £20m and along with the recent and planned expenditure on the port facilities on the route represents a major financial commitment to the service by the Executive.

  • Ardrossan - Brodick

Fifty three respondents commented on services to Arran. A number of the responses were about improving the winter timetable. The winter timetable on the Ardrossan - Brodick route will be enhanced by introducing an additional return sailing each day. This will bring it into line with the summer timetable. The improvement to the service will enhance the economy in Arran by allowing mainland-based workers more daylight time on Arran and providing further opportunities to commuters.

  • Oban - Craignure

Respondents suggested a range of enhancements to the winter timetable between Oban and Craignure with the consensus being that the service should be improved, particularly on a Friday. We will therefore introduce an additional return sailing on a Friday evening during the winter. This will be beneficial to commuters and offer greater flexibility to visitors wishing to spend a weekend on the island. In addition, we will consider as part of the planned research (see paragraphs 21 - 22 below), whether it is feasible to improve the Oban - Craignure service to allow daily commuting to and from Mull.

  • Oban - Coll and Tiree

Those respondents, who commented on services from Oban to Coll and Tiree, all supported the introduction of additional sailings. It is generally recognised that services to the islands could be improved, particularly in the winter. Steps have already been taken to improve the services since the consultation exercise. In addition we will introduce an additional winter Sunday sailing. The additional sailing will benefit the communities and help to boost the economy by allowing weekend visits to the islands.

Service Enhancements already implemented following consultation

7. In advance of this response a number of enhancements have already been implemented. Following consideration of the issues, including affordability and practicality, the following additional sailings have been introduced since the consultation period:

  • Oban - Coll and Tiree

During winter 2005/06 an additional sailing on a Sunday (which provided for 4 sailings per week) was trialled. This was made possible by a revised vessel refit programme that enabled the MV Clansman (the regular vessel on the route) to operate on the route for a longer period (thus maintaining journey times and car deck capacity). As indicated above it is now the intention to introduce this improvement as a permanent feature of the winter timetable. In the summer, additional sailings were introduced so that Coll is now served 7 days per week (previously only 6).

  • Largs - Cumbrae

From winter 2005/06 three additional sailings were introduced into the evening schedule, providing half-hourly sailings with the last sailing leaving the mainland at 20:15. In addition there have been improvements to the Cumbrae slip and a new vessel, the MV Loch Shira, will serve on the route from Spring 2007. This vessel will cost some £6.34 million. The new vessel will alleviate capacity constraints on the route and provide a reliable service for tourists and residents.

  • Lochaline - Fishnish

From winter 2005/06 four sailings were introduced on a Sunday to provide a 7 day a week service during winter. Two of these sailings are on a request basis.

  • Uig (Skye) - Tarbert (Harris)

For the Winter timetable, from 2005/06, an additional sailing was introduced on a Monday which allows a return sailing on that day.

Other improvements

8. In addition to the enhancements outlined above:

  • In July 2005 the MV Isle of Bute came into service on the Wemyss Bay -Rothesay route providing additional capacity on the route. A sister vessel, the MV Argyle will come into service in April 2007. These modern vessels cost some £8.75 million and £9.5 million respectively and represent significant investment by the Executive in the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay service. The two vessels and associated infrastructure improvements at Rothesay at a cost of £9 million, including a new linkspan, will ensure that Bute has a reliable modern service;
  • Improvements to the Small Isles harbour infrastructure completed in August 2006 when the £3.6m new pier at Canna was opened - the final element in a package of Small Isles works totalling £30 million;
  • A new ferry terminal approved for Raasay at a cost of £7 million;
  • New ferry terminal completed and second linkspan being installed at Oban (total cost in excess of £11m); and
  • Harbour improvements underway at Port Askaig (£10.8m).

9. The proposed enhancements along with the enhancements and improvements already introduced and work currently underway are all evidence of the Executive's continuing commitment not just to maintain but to improve and protect the lifeline ferry services to our most fragile communities in the Clyde and Hebrides network.

Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna)

10. Following earlier representations made to the Executive the consultation paper sought views on the existing timetables for servicing the Small Isles. The pier at Canna was the final part of a package of harbour improvement/replacement which has now been completed for the Small Isles. While some suggestions on service enhancements were offered during the consultation, there was limited scope for any meaningful improvements in the short-term. It is now proposed that services to the Small Isles will be examined more fully as part of the comprehensive research programme that will be undertaken after the new contract commences.


11. The issue of future services to Lismore generated a high volume of consultation responses. Lismore is currently served by two ferry services - CalMac's passenger and vehicle service operating from Oban to Achnacroish at the south of the island, and the local authority run passenger-only service operating at the north end of the island to Port Appin on the mainland. The CalMac Ferries Ltd's crossing takes approximately 50 minutes whereas the passenger-only service at the north takes approximately 5 minutes.

12. The responses on this issue appeared to fall into 3 categories: those who supported a vehicle service at the north end of the island (114 responses); those who wished to maintain the status quo (45 responses); and those who did not express a preference (17 responses). It is also worth noting that since the consultation exercise, officials have received further representations (17 in total) on this issue, mainly from the local community at Port Appin (on the mainland), raising their concerns about the possibility of a vehicle service at the north end of the island.

13. Whilst there was certainly not unanimous support for the proposition, the majority of respondents, in particular, members of the local community on the island, would appear to favour a vehicle service at the north end of the island. However there are likely to be substantial infrastructure costs associated with pursuing this option. Given that these costs are presently unknown an appraisal, using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) methodology, will be commissioned to review the available options. The appraisal will be led by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd with participation from Argyll and Bute Council, HITRANS, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services operator.

Mallaig - Lochboisdale

14. There have been calls for a Mallaig-Lochboisdale ferry service for some time and, following representations in support of this service in the 2002 consultation exercise, additional views were sought on this issue in the most recent consultation. The consultation paper explained that given the uncertainty over the financial and operational implications of introducing the service, CalMac (in partnership with Western Isles, Highland and Argyll & Bute Councils, HITRANS and HIE) would be taking forward an appraisal using the STAG method. CalMac formed a representative group with these organisations to oversee the STAG appraisal. The STAG work was undertaken in 2005. The remit set out by Ministers included a requirement that the options to be appraised should not involve any reduction in the services offered on any other route in the network.

15. The approach to the STAG appraisal adopted by CalMac, and the representative group, was inclusive and there was local informal consultation. This included a meeting of the representative group in Lochboisdale when the appraisal was discussed with a number of local interests. While some members of the representative group would have wished a wider remit there was agreement that the STAG appraisal was robust within the terms of the remit. The overall recommendation of the appraisal was that the introduction of a Mallaig - Lochboisdale service could only be achieved by the addition of a new vessel at a cost of £16m and with substantial extra subsidy costs (potentially in the region of between £5.5m and £7.3m per annum).

16. Following further local representations the service specification will invite tenderers to submit costs and options for a Mallaig - Lochboisdale service. In the tendering of the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services tenderers will be asked to submit costs for each of the following options:

Option 1 - Existing network

17. The 'baseline' bid will invite prospective operators to bid on the basis of the current service configuration for the CHFS network. This specification effectively reproduces the current routes and timetables, although with some enhancements to be introduced. In respect of Lochboisdale, the current specification has Oban as the mainland port and with services generally taking in Castlebay and Barra. This means that a return sailing between Oban and Lochboisdale often involves at least one of the legs being via Barra, increasing the journey time compared with a direct sailing. This would effectively be the 'baseline' bid

Option 2 - Existing network but with stand alone service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale replacing existing service between Oban and Lochboisdale

18. Prospective operators will be invited to provide a price for delivering the existing network of CalMac services, as for Option 1, but with the services between Oban and Lochboisdale replaced by services between Mallaig and Lochboisdale. The minimum service frequency should be 1 return sailing a day with fares to be agreed if a suitable option can be found. The precise timetable will be for bidders to consider but integration with bus and train services is a priority. Bidders will be required to provide details of the additional vessel they would propose to use, including estimated cost.

19. Option 2 will provide a small release of vessel capacity on the network. That additional capacity is likely to provide opportunities for some modest enhancement to the other ferry services operating out of Oban.

20. In market testing proposals received through the tendering process, the Executive will evaluate the proposals against a number of important criteria. Firstly, to establish the financial implications and affordability of the proposals, secondly, to consider the value for money, and thirdly, in operational terms, to ensure that the options are practical and that they do not significantly impact on the services provided to other island and remote communities. Following that assessment Ministers will take a view on which option to include as part of the final service specification.

Planned Research

21. The consultation document invited consultees to consider whether there were further changes which might be made to the services and/or timetables which would further benefit users. One hundred and two respondees commented on a range of service and timetable issues. Twenty one respondents commented on research that should be undertaken during the contract period. Taking these two sets of comments together, the issues identified for possible inclusion in the planned research were:

  • timetables,
  • services,
  • fares,
  • integrated transport,
  • parking problems,
  • enhancing tourism,
  • economic impacts,
  • overland routes and
  • vessels.

22. Detailed decisions on the scope of this research are not being taken at this time but the views offered during the consultation exercise will be taken into account in preparing the remit. The operator will be required to participate in the planned research.

Consultative Arrangements

23. Fourteen respondents commented on consultative arrangements. The draft service specification outlined a proposed structure for future consultative arrangements. The contract for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services will require the successful operator to consult regularly with user groups and stakeholders. The Executive must be satisfied that suitable arrangements will be put in place for full and fair consultation. The Executive will expect relevant local authorities, ferry user groups and representatives of key Clyde-based and Highland and Island agencies to be among the bodies consulted.

24. In terms of formal consultative structures, the Regional Transport Partnerships are currently finalising revised consultative arrangements. It is planned to keep consultation arrangements as simple as possible, but fully inclusive. The new operator will be required to consult on issues such as timetabling, information, bad weather arrangements, terminal and on board facilities and services, integration with other forms of public transport, vessel re-positioning and service marketing. Existing arrangements will continue until new arrangements have been finalised and are in place.

25. Comments were also received on a range of other issues. The Executive has taken careful note of these points. Indeed a number of the matters raised have been taken into account in framing the service specification for the services. As far as practical, in moving forward, many others will be addressed in the future development of the services.


26. As we move forward to the next phase of the tendering exercise the Scottish Executive remains committed to protecting the lifeline services, the terms and conditions of the current workforce, the CalMac Brand and the communities served by the lifeline services.

27. A number of improvements have already been made to the fleet, infrastructure and timetables. Vessel replacement and infrastructure improvement/replacement is a rolling programme and we have identified a number of additional enhancements to the timetable. In restructuring Caledonian MacBrayne, steps have been taken that protect the purpose built fleet and the CalMac brand by ensuring that they stay in public ownership.

28. We look forward to continued improvement and a modern service fit for purpose and fulfilling the needs of the most fragile peripheral communities in Scotland.


December 2006