Community Ferry Company Progress
We have received several tenders for our planned study of the feasibility of establishing a community-controlled ferry company. The bids are currently being assessed and we hope to award the contract early in the new year.
What should replace the Corran Ferry?
Highland Council are proceeding with plans to build two new ferries for Corran, together with new slips, marshalling areas and so on. There has been no formal consultation with communities on Mull and Iona.
In Morven and Ardnamurchan, there is a growing campaign for the construction of a fixed link (tunnel or bridge) rather than renewal of the ferries. Highland Council say they have not ruled out a fixed link – but not for 20-30 years.
As an important ferry link heavily used by people on Mull and Iona, we think that our voice should be heard. So we have set up a short questionnaire so that we can measure opinion here, and find out how a fixed link at Corran might change our travel preferences. We’ve also taken the opportunity to ask questions about your view on the Lochaline ferry service.
Please go here to complete the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CorranLochaline
We’ll keep it open until January 30th.
You can find information about the Corran Narrows ferry replacement project here.
There is a Corran Narrows Facebook group here
Set up by the Corran Narrows group campaigning for a fixed link, you will find a petition here.
If you would like to read the full Corran Narrows Outline Business Case, you will find it here.
What’s the Pentalina up to?
Pentland Ferries’ MV Pentalina was trialled in various CalMac ports in the summer of 2021, ahead of a proposed crewed charter. Plans were well advanced, and it was intended to base the Pentalina at Craignure in the winter, operating additional early and late sailings. In the summer she would have worked the Ardrossan-Brodick service. Those plans were quashed however, after Pentland Ferries were subject to a sensationalised press campaign by the RMT regarding ‘safety’ issues. Shortly afterwards CMAL/Transport Scotland decided (perhaps in some haste) to buy the Loch Frisa … and the rest is history.
The Pentalina has remained laid up in Orkney since then. But earlier this month the ferry grape-vine was busy with news that Pentland Ferries were recruiting crew, in preparation for short-term charter. Pentland Ferries confirmed the charter but would not say where the vessel was going, other than “in Scotland”. Both CalMac and Transport Scotland would not confirm it was for CalMac routes, and in desperation even we were contacted by some news outlets asking if we had chartered her!
What we do know is that CalMac have recommended to Transport Scotland that the Pentalina is chartered into service on the West Coast, at least until new-build vessels enter the fleet. If she was to enter service for CalMac, there are limited choices for her use, because she is not suitable for all linkspans. Ullapool-Stornoway, Ardrossan-Brodick and Oban-Craignure are top candidates, because her suitability for those piers. Should further news develop , we will keep you posted…
Project Neptune and Transport Committee enquiry
Two separate pieces of work are underway that might help to shape the future of ferry services.
The Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee of the Scottish Parliament are currently holding an enquiry into the future of Scottish Ferry Services. We have already contributed, and will be sending more evidence from Mull and Iona soon. More in-person evidence sessions are planned for the New Year. Many of you have already sent in personal responses, which have now been collated by the committee. You can see the enquiry progress here.
Separately, the government are seeking views on ‘Project Neptune’ – their consultation on the future of ferry service structures and governance. It considers how the next contract for Hebridean ferry services should be tendered and what structures should be in place. It is widely anticipated that one outcome will be the amalgamation of CMAL and CalMac.
Before waiting for the outcome of consultation, the government have already indicated that one option considered by Neptune, the ‘unbundling’ of the west-coast ferry contract, is off the table. Unbundling is the means by which a Community Ferry Company could be enabled. It seems premature to be ruling out options before islanders have had an opportunity to voice their opinions. We are keeping an open mind on unbundling, and in particular want to assess opportunities that a community ferry company could bring. The evidence from countries with more successful public ferry systems (Norway in particular) is that unbundling (or tendering for services in small parcels rather than one large one) can deliver excellent outcomes for both islanders and the taxpayer.
Local consultation on Neptune is being organised by the chair of the Ferries Community Board Angus Campbell. We understand that visits to Mull are planned as part of that program, and we will keep you informed as they are organised.
And finally … over-60 concession tickets for van drivers.
A quirk of the CalMac ticketing system has been brought to our attention – if you are over 60 and driving a van, you cannot access concessionary passenger fares. We have checked with SPT (the administrators of the over-60 concession system), and they have confirmed that they don’t determine eligibility on the type of the vehicle you are driving.
We have made CalMac aware of this, and trust that they will amend their ticketing systems accordingly.