Overview

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 through a “Teckal arrangement” in accordance with the Public Contracts (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 key stakeholders and communities are considered, reflected upon and help shape the detail within the next CHFS contract.

A public consultation was launched on 15 December 2023 and will run for 12 weeks until 8 March 2024. We invite you to share your views during this time to actively shape the forward thinking of the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services Contract.

Respond to the CHFS3 public consultation

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 and are welcoming the views of communities and service users on their expectations for the service.

Following on from the Minister for Transport's Parliamentary statement on 16 November 2023, officials carried out the first in a series of CHFS3 ‘drop-in’ public engagement events on Arran, Mull, Islay, Skye and Lewis, which commenced on 20 November 2023.

As part of our ongoing commitment to conduct public engagement, we will be holding the next round of community ‘drop-in’ sessions on the following dates and venues across January and February 2024:

Rothesay: Moat Centre - 29 January 2024

  • 10:30 – 12:00
  • 16:30 – 18:00

Cumbrae: Garrison House - 1 February 2024

  • 14:00 – 15:30
  • 17:30 – 19:00

Lochmaddy: Claddach Kirkibost Centre - 6 February 2024

  • 10:30 – 12:00

Lochboisdale: Cnoc Soilleir, Daliburgh - 6 February 2024

  • 17:30 – 19:00

Tiree: An Talla - 14 February

  • 10:30 – 12:00
  • 17:30 – 19:00

Colonsay: Colonsay Village Hall - 20 February 2024

  • 10:30 – 12:00
  • 17:30 – 19:00

Oban: CalMac Port Office - 22 February 2024 (Postponed)

Update - due to unforeseen circumstances the planned CHFS3 engagement event in Oban on 22 February has been postponed and will now be held at a later date. Further updates will follow. 

The purpose of these events, is to provide communities with an update on the development of the CHFS3 contract and to gather public feedback on eight key themes.

These themes, which are being addressed through the CHFS3 public consultation, were identified by Transport Scotland following reviews of stakeholder engagement and various sources including the National Transport Strategy, National Islands Plan, Strategic Transport Projects Review (consultations), and reports from the Rural Economy Connectivity Committee, Public Audit Committee, Audit Scotland, and Net Zero Energy and Transport.

The themes discussed with members of the public at the events are:

  • Reliability and Resilience
  • Capacity and Demand
  • Community Voice, Transparency and Accountability
  • Monitoring and Reporting
  • Accessibility
  • Freight Services
  • Carbon Reduction
  • Onward and Connecting Travel

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.

Your feedback will be invaluable in shaping the new contract and, in addition to the above sessions, there will be further opportunity for views to be submitted, including through our Public Consultation which closes on 8 March 2024.

In addition to the new contract, there will also be an opportunity to submit views on our wider ferries policy work being developed through the Islands Connectivity Plan. Further information on how to engage on that work will be provided in the coming weeks.


Emerging findings

Transport Scotland officials carried out the first round of CHFS3 community ‘drop-in’ events on Arran, Mull, Islay, Skye and Lewis in November 2023.

At these events communities had the opportunity to provide and discuss their views on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services. The table below provides a small selection of emerging findings derived from the first round of public engagement sessions.

Community feedback will be instrumental in shaping the new contract and will continue to be captured through future rounds of public engagement sessions.

Examples of Possible Measures for CHFS3

Resilience and Reliability

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

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 users 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.
  • Full environmental impact of ferry services to be reported e.g. Climate impact report.
  • Removal of single use takeaway cups, takeaway food containers and plastics on ferries.

Onward and Connecting Travel

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

Accessibility

  • 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.