Samso-style booking system for Mull?

<<UPDATE: Survey now open here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/samsosystem >>

Recently we wrote to Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth and Islands Minister Mairi Gougeon, urging them to ensure that as is required by the Islands Act, an Island Community Impact Assessment (ICIA) is used to examine CalMac’s booking system. The current first-come-first-served system has unfairness built into it. Island residents cannot plan every shopping trip, family visit, business trip, livestock movement, hospital appointment or funeral weeks in advance.

Holiday makers – who typically plan weeks or months ahead – are allocated car deck space ahead of everyone else. It’s simply inequitable, and precisely the kind of prejudicial policy that the Islands Act was designed to prevent.

CalMac are planning to introduce a new ticketing system this year, but no ICIA has been carried out as is required by the law. We haven’t had a reply from either Minister yet, but in the meantime we have been investigating alternative systems that could be more equitable.

Samso, Denmark.

We think we’ve found an excellent example of a fair and ‘island-proofed’ ticketing system on the Danish island of Samso. Like Mull, Samso has a population of around 3,500. Like Mull, it is a popular tourist destination, and like Mull there is competition for car spaces between locals and visitors during the summer months. But unlike Mull, they have a different method of allocating car deck space. We have spoken to the CEO of the Samso ferry company, and he outlined how their system works –

  • The core principle of the Samso system is that two separate ticket allocations are maintained. One for locals and other regular users (like commuters and delivery drivers), and one for visitors.
  • Locals and regular users are issued with a photo ID ‘Green Card’.
  • When buying tickets, islanders present their Green Card, which allows them to buy a ticket from the local allocation for that sailing.
  • The ferry company keep records on a sailing-by-sailing basis of how many car spaces are used by holders of Green Cards.
  • Using that historical record, the ferry company predicts how many Green Card spaces will be required as the local allocation on each future sailing. Those spaces are only available to be bought by Green Card holders.

Government guidance on the implementation of ICIAs and the Islands Act states that “It is important that you make sure islands receive fair and equitable treatment and that your policy, strategy or service outcomes are tailored to their unique circumstances.” We think Samso has the best example we have found yet of a fair ticketing system tailored to our unique circumstances as the Islands Act requires.

What is more, the software that runs the Samso system is very similar to the new ticketing software that CalMac plan to roll out later this year. It would have been much preferable for a competent ICIA to have been carried out two years ago when the new ticketing system was being purchased.

But it’s not too late.

One of the main reasons CalMac and Transport Scotland have given in the past for not differentiating between visitors and islanders like this was that there are differing and competing views across the islands on how and whether this should be done. So the one way we can address that – at least on Mull and Iona – is to ask you. We will publish an online survey in the next few days to get your views on this ticketing model.

<<UPDATE: Survey now open here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/samsosystem >>

7 thoughts on “Samso-style booking system for Mull?

  1. Question ref. S6W-04632
    Asked by: Alasdair Allan, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scottish National Party
    Date lodged: 24 November 2021

    Question
    To ask the Scottish Government what areas of activity of David MacBrayne Ltd and CalMac Ferries would typically be considered appropriate for an Island Communities Impact Assessment under the duties of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018.

    Current status: Answered by Graeme Dey on 8 December 2021

    Answer
    David MacBrayne Ltd is a Relevant Authority under the Islands Act. It is for individual bodies to consider their responsibilities under the Act when carrying out their activities.

    CalMac Ferries ltd is not listed as a Relevant Authority in the Act, and is therefore not subject to the same duties under the Act.

    1. Thanks for this Liam. Its a surprising answer! If DML are a ‘relevant authority’, but not in relation to the activities of their subsidiary CalMac Ferries Ltd, one has to wonder why they are on the list. Their only other activity is running a military port in Hampshire. We have taken this question up with various relevant people…

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