Transport Scotland produced the first Ferries Plan in 2013, following consultation that began in 2011. It laid out the plan for ferry provision to Scotland’s islands through until 2022 when the next 10-year plan will be produced. It covers funding, fares, tendering, routes, vessel replacement and deployment. The full document can be read here.
The most significant aspect of the first ferries plan was the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff across the network. More on that here.
RET resulted in a general reduction in fares for foot passengers and passenger vehicles, which had the effect of stimulating demand significantly; locals tend to travel more frequently, and more tourists are visiting. RET was phased in across the CalMac network, with Mull being among the last islands to have it introduced from the winter timetable of 2015.
In order to cope with this increase in demand, many additional sailings were added to the winter timetables, and in the summer the Oban-Craignure route is now served by two ferries. The MV Isle of Mull (960 passengers; 70 cars) is joined by the MV Coruisk (249 passengers; 40 cars)
The details of how ferry replacement and deployment will enable the Ferries Plan are reviewed periodically in the Vessel Replacement and Deployment Plan (VRDP). This (almost annual) plan reviews carrying trends and lays out which services will benefit from re-deployment or renewal of vessels. Below is an excerpt from the most recent plan, published in December 2018. It shows how fully utilised each service is for the peak 9 weeks of the summer, and notes major redeployment changes that are planned.
The main take-aways from the above so far as Mull and Iona are concerned are:
- Oban – Craignure is one of the most congested services on the network
- MV Coruisk will be replaced by the much larger Hebrides (612 passengers; 90 cars) from the summer of 2020.
So from the summer of 2020 the MV Isle of Mull will be teamed with the MV Hebrides, and it should become much easier to get a booking on the ferry!
However ….. in order for this to happen, either the MV Hebrides or the MV Isle of Mull will need to over-night at Craignure Pier, just as the smaller Coruisk does currently. The Council-owned Craignure Pier isn’t big enough for either ship (The Hebrides is 9 metres longer than the IOM), and currently there are no plans to lengthen it. The Ferry Committee are pressing hard for the Council to commit to improvements, to enable this crucial re-deployment. See more about that here.
The MV Isle of Mull is one of the oldest ships in the CalMac fleet, first launched in 1988. (Making her 31 years old at the time of writing). Her replacement will be included in the next Ferries Plan, due for publication by 2022. We plan to contribute to the consultation leading up to that plan, and will help to ensure Mull and Iona residents all have the opportunity to give their opinions on what shape our ferry service should take.