We will continue to deliver a lifeline ferry service to connect island and remote communities off the west coast of Scotland with the mainland when the current Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) contract (CHFS2) expires on 30 September 2024.

In a statement to Parliament on 16 November 2023, the Minister for Transport set out Scottish Ministers’ preferred procurement route for the next CHFS contract (CHFS3), which is to explore a direct award (an award in reliance on the exemption in Regulation 13 (1) of the Public Contract (Scotland) Regulations 2015).

A due diligence process will establish the feasibility of direct award from a financial, operational, and legal perspective.

Subject to a satisfactory outcome, the Scottish Government will commence the necessary steps to facilitate a direct award with a final decision on this route expected in summer 2024. Should the due diligence exercise result in a decision not to proceed with direct award, then the procurement route would revert to a competitive tendering process.

The current policy position regarding unbundling of the CHFS network was clearly expressed by the Minister for Transport in her statement to parliament on 16 November 2023, and there are no plans to split up the network.

In relation to ferry priorities and governance structures under consideration through Project Neptune, the Minister for Transport has been clear that no immediate decision will be taken on the merger of bodies or governance at this time. We will work with the relevant organisations, trades unions, and other stakeholders to identify the optimum final governance arrangements.

Our work on development of the CHFS3 is underway, supported by technical and legal specialists. We are engaging with key stakeholders, including communities and trade unions, to inform the development of these key services. Consultation details and opportunities will be added to this webpage in the near future, along with any engagement opportunities.

The new contract will take into account the wider ferries policy work being developed under the Islands Connectivity Plan, which itself is subject to consultation in the coming months.

Public consultation

The Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services play a crucial role in our transport system, providing vital links for residents, businesses, and tourists across the west coast of Scotland.

We are committed to ensuring that the views and perspectives of communities and key stakeholders are considered, reflected upon and help shape the detail within the next CHFS contract.

public consultation was launched on 15 December 2023 and ran for 12 weeks and closed on 8 March 2024.

All public consultation responses will now be passed to our consultants who have been commissioned to analyse the feedback and provide an in-depth report summarising the outputs.

If you still wish to provide feedback on the new contract, please contact us via the CHFS3 mailbox.

Stakeholder engagement

The Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) play a crucial role in our transport system, providing vital links for residents, businesses, and visitors across the West coast of Scotland.

We are currently developing the new contract specification and have been welcoming the views of communities and service users on their expectations for the service.

Officials carried out a series of CHFS3 ‘drop-in’ public engagement events on Arran, Mull, Islay, Skye, Lewis, Bute, Cumbrae, North Uist, South Uist, Tiree and Colonsay from November 2023 to February 2024.

The feedback gathered at these meetings will be analysed and summarised, providing valuable insights that will guide the future development of our services. We appreciate the active participation of all attendees and their contribution to this important process.

The CHFS3 public consultation closed on 8 March 2024, however there is still an opportunity to submit your views on our wider ferries policy work being developed through the Islands Connectivity Plan.

A further series of public engagement sessions are planned as part of this work, with the first event having taken place in Harris on 27 February 2024.

Emerging findings

Transport Scotland officials carried out a series of CHFS3 community ‘drop-in’ events on Arran, Mull, Islay, Skye, Lewis, Bute, Cumbrae, North Uist, South Uist, Tiree and Colonsay from November 2023 to February 2024.

At these events, communities had the opportunity to provide and discuss their views for the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contract. A small selection of the emerging findings derived from our public engagement sessions are detailed below.

Community feedback will be instrumental in shaping the new contract and a final report summarising the key findings will be available in the coming weeks.

Examples of possible measures for CHFS3

Resilience and reliability

  • Dedicated relief vessel(s) once new vessels are introduced to the fleet.
  • Explore opportunities to improve interoperability between routes and increase standardisation of vessels.

Capacity and demand

  • Spaces available for last minute bookings for islanders and key workers.
  • Operator required to make best use of available deck space.

Community voice, transparency and accountability

  • Communications on service disruption could be regionalised, instead of being managed by HQ.
  • On site communication for passengers when travelling – when boarding commencing, estimated departure and sailing times.

Carbon reduction and environmental impact

  • Explore where public transport connections could be improved to make alternative travel modes more feasible.
  • Environmental impact of ferry services to be reported e.g. Climate Impact report.
  • Report on recycling of soft plastics; single use takeaway cups, takeaway food containers etc.

Onward and connecting Travel

  • Explore improved connectivity to ensure that ferry services align with bus and rail links, even during disruption.
  • Development of SMART ticketing to streamline booking processes.


  • Regular accessibility audits to take place with accessibility groups such as Mobility Access Committee Scotland (MACS), with the aim of improving accessibility at ports and onboard vessels.

Freight services

  • Freight to be encouraged to travel via non-peak or dedicated freight services where practicable.

Monitoring and review

  • Suite of Performance metrics to cover all aspects of the ferry experience including customer satisfaction, service performance and sustainability.
  • Real time accurate performance reporting through a user-friendly application (app) to reflect the true passenger experience.