Brown announces £1.9m to support island ferry fares
The investment will ensure ferry fares for commercial hauliers starting from summer 2014 are pegged back at an increase of 2.7%, which Mr Brown confirmed would be in line with the rest of Scotland’s ferry network.
This comes hot on the heels of news that a three year winter pilot ferry service, starting next month, will run between Mallaig and Lochboisdale.
Mr Brown said:
"On top of the £4.5 million provided over the last two financial years to cushion the impact on hauliers returning to non-RET rates, we are investing a total of £1.9 million in the next financial year to limit the increase for hauliers on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree.
“We are aware of views from some hauliers on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree routes of the impact of the transitional arrangements we have put in place to move commercial hauliers to non-RET fares, and we are listening. The additional investment will provide a further financial cushion and ensure fare increases for those hauliers next year are in line with the rest of the ferry network, which has been set for summer 2014 at 2.7%.
“Against a backdrop of a one third cut to the Scottish Government’s capital budget, and rising costs like fuel - issues which we have no control over - we are facing some very difficult choices. Our first commitment must be to ensure continued improvements to infrastructure and services across all of Scotland’s ferry routes and we are providing a record £423.9 million over this and the next 2 financial years to this end. Most recently we also announced our intention to run a three year winter pilot on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale route which underlines our wider ambition.
“The extra investment announced today ensures we strike a balance between delivering a commercial vehicles fares structure for all of Scotland’s islands that is fair, transparent and straightforward, without compromising on wider investment in the whole ferry network, including rolling out the RET for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles across the entire Clyde and Hebrides ferry network.”
- Due to the cuts imposed on the Scottish Government’s budget by the UK Government, we have had to make difficult decisions to ensure that existing ferry routes and services are maintained. In response to that, we therefore took the difficult decision to remove RET for large commercial vehicles from spring 2012. The results of the RET pilot showed that the major impact of RET was on the tourism industry.
- Scottish Ministers provided £2.5 million of funding in 2012/13 for transitional arrangements to alleviate the impact of commercial fares in the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree returning to non-RET rates.
- To bring additional clarity for businesses and the local economies in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree, we undertook a study to assess the socio-economic impact in the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree of the removal of RET for commercial vehicles.
- Given the emerging findings of the study, the increase in commercial vehicle fares on services to and from the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree was limited to 10% for 2013/14. This represents additional funding on £2m in 2013/14. This is significantly lower than the average 34% increase planned under the original transitional arrangements.
- Additional concessions have been introduced on RET routes to assist commercial vehicles. Lorries carrying hay, livestock and live shellfish make the return ‘empty’ journey for free, other than a charge to cover pier dues.
- The definition of commercial vehicles has been extended from 5m to 6m in length on RET routes, in order that small commercial vehicles can qualify for RET rates.
- The SG are establishing a working group including a broad representation of key stakeholders to undertake a comprehensive review of commercial vehicle fares across Scotland’s entire ferry network. We are finalising membership and management of the Working Group which will oversee the work of the Review and the proposed timing and arrangements for introducing freight fare changes arising from the Review.