Overview

Transport Scotland is responsible for several different ferry services. This page looks at the subsidised routes and the contractors undertaking them.

Clyde and Hebrides

CalMac Ferries Ltd provide the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services under tendered contract with Scottish Ministers. You can read about the plan for the future of these services in the Scottish Ferries Plan 2013-2022.

The contract for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services runs from 2016 until 2024:

CalMac Ferries Ltd (CFL) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, which is wholly owned by Scottish Ministers.

Contracts and evaluations

On 17 February 2015, the Contract Notice was submitted to the Official Journal of the European Union, signalling the Scottish Government’s intention to take forward a competition that will see a contract awarded at the end of May 2016 for the provision of the services from October 2016.

The service is regularly evaluated. Read the results of those evaluations below:

Northern Isles

The Scottish Government subsidise ferry services from the mainland to Orkney and Shetland via the Northern Isles Ferry Services Contract, which over the course of the six year Public Service Contract from July 2012 to April 2018, was worth £223 million. Serco NorthLink Ferries won the tender against competition from the previous public sector operator, NorthLink Ferries Ltd. The contract has been extended for a period of 18 months, due to expire on 31 October 2019.

Northern Isles ferry services contract

Operator

  • Serco NorthLink Ferries

Contract

Minute of Extension and Variation

Action plan

Tendering of 2019-2027 contract

On 21 February we confirmed that the Invitation to Tender for the next contract to operate the Northern Isles Ferry Services had been published.

We have also confirmed that Pentland Ferries, the commercial operator on the Pentland Firth, has lodged a Petition for Judicial Review of Scottish Ministers’ decision to subsidise the provision of public services in relation to Northern Isles Ferry Services. The company has also lodged a related complaint with the European Commission.

The Invitation to Tender was issued on 17 January 2019 to three potential bidders: CalMac Ferries Ltd, Förde Reederei Seetouristik GmbH & Co. KG (FRS) and Serco NorthLink Ltd.

Scottish Ministers will defend our position in relation to the continued provision of subsidy in support of these lifeline ferry services. The procurement process will continue as planned, pending the outcome of the Judicial Review and complaint to the European Commission from a commercial operator.

Areas served

  • Ferry services between (a) Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick and (b) Scrabster and Stromness.

For more information visit the Northlink Ferries website

Public consultation

A public consultation on options for future Northern Isles ferry services was conducted from 11 June to 30 September 2010.

The relevant consultation documents are available for information only below.

MV Hamnavoe

Northern Isles freight contract

Operator

  • Shetland Line 1984 Limited, part of the Streamline Shipping Group

Contract length

Areas served

  • Freight shipping service between Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick

Next Northern Isles Ferry Service Contract

Following the Minister for Transport and the Islands announcement in the Scottish Parliament on 20 December in relation to the Ferry Services Policy Procurement Review, both the Minister and Transport Scotland officials will conduct extensive consultation with key stakeholders and members of the local community, at which point, a decision in relation to the next Northern Isles Ferry Service Contract will be taken.

Jura Passenger Ferry Service

The Craighouse to Tayvallich ferry service is a small summer only 12-seater passenger ferry service that operates in the Sound of Jura between Craighouse, Jura and Tayvallich on the Knapdale Peninsula. The Jura Passenger Ferry connects with local bus services in Tayvallich to Lochgilphead and, from there, with CityLink services to Glasgow on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays (except school holidays, please see website for alternative times).

The Jura Passenger Ferry is overseen and promoted by the Isle of Jura Development Trust. The Trust is a community organisation in its 20th year, set up by local residents to ensure that the social and economic development of Jura is successful and sustainable. 

For more information, please visit the Jura Passenger Ferry and Community Land Scotland websites.

Non-Subsidised Ferry Services

The following links provide information about major ferry services which are not funded by the Scottish Government:

There are also a number of privately owned operators who provide local ferry services throughout the Highlands and Islands.

Ferries Unit engagement

Ferries provide a vital lifeline to our valued island and rural mainland residents and help to support thriving business and employment opportunities on the islands. The lifeline services on the Clyde and Hebrides network, the Northern Isles network and the Gourock – Dunoon service are provided under Public Service Contracts.

Transport Scotland’s Ferries Unit is responsible for overarching ferries policy, the procurement of the Public Service Contracts, contract management of these contracts and policy on future vessel and infrastructure investment. The Public Service Contracts specify the routes and timetables which the operator is required to provide, as well as the fares which apply.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) is a public body wholly owned by Scottish Ministers. It owns the ferries, ports and harbours and infrastructure necessary for vital ferry services serving the West coast of Scotland and the Clyde Estuary. It procures and owns the vessels, which are funded by the Scottish Government and owns and maintains 22 harbours. It leases the vessels to the ferry operator for use under the Public Service Contracts, which is mostly, but not wholly, under the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract. The operators of the Public Service Contracts, CalMac Ferries Ltd, Serco NorthLink Ferries and Argyll Ferries Ltd, deliver the ferry services to the islands. They are responsible for local consultation on various matters, such as timetables, with local communities, reporting back to Transport Scotland.

CMAL is also classified as a public corporation and subject to the governance arrangements applied to Scottish public bodies. These are set out in a Management Statement and Financial Memorandum.

Consequently Transport Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, is actively engaged in a number of groupings with a range of key stakeholders to ensure that these ferry services are managed and developed in a way that is consistent with those aims.

In carrying out its various functions, Transport Scotland engages formally with different groups. A list of these groups and their membership is set out below. This list is not exhaustive and Transport Scotland engage with many other groups on an ad hoc basis.

Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services

Name Frequency Membership Purpose of Group
Ardrossan – Brodick Taskforce Variable
  • Transport Scotland
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • CalMac
  • CMAL
  • Clydeport
  • Local stakeholders
  • PPG

To ensure improvement of the operational effectiveness of the Ardrossan facility in supporting the lifeline ferry services and the new vessel on the Arran route.

Argyll Ferry Infrastructure Group Bi-monthly
  • Transport Scotland
  • Argyll & Bute Council
  • CalMac Ferries Ltd
  • CMAL

To ensure that vessels and infrastructure are suitable and sustainable.

To take forward specific infrastructure projects, starting with those for Iona, Islay and Mull.

To act as the project steering group for the Craignure harbour project led by A&BC

To share information and co-ordinate communications with communities and other stakeholders.

The Craignure Infrastructure Liaison Group 6 monthly
  • TS
  • CMAL
  • CalMac
  • Argyll & Bute Council
  • Local stakeholders
  • Ferry group (Mull & Iona Ferry Committee)

 

To provide a forum for consultation and communication regarding how the new Craignure pier is planned, designed and built.

 

Ferry Industry Advisory Group Up to 3 times a year
  • Transport Scotland
  • CalMac
  • CMAL
  • HiTRANS
  • ZetTRANS
  • Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
  • Independent ferry experts
  • Academic experts
  • Commercial ferry operator

To provide Scottish Ministers with considered advice about key ferries related issues in Scotland.

To provide advice on strategic issues identified by Transport Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

 

Ferry Stakeholder Groups (FSG’s): Clyde, Argyll and Hebrides 6 Monthly
  • Transport Scotland
  • Argyll & Bute Council
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Highland Council
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • HiTRANS
  • Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
  • Inverclyde Council
  • CalMac
  • CMAL
  • Local stakeholders and officials

To provide a forum for engagement between the CHFS operator and elected members and other stakeholders at a regional level.

To facilitate communication and engagement between the parties on a range of ferries issues.

The Islands Transport Forum

 

Twice a year
  • Transport Scotland
  • Government Officials
  • Local Authority Officials

Improving collaboration between Transport Scotland, RTPs and islands councils and ensuring clarity with regard to roles;

Establishing a process that fully accounts for island-specific view;

Ensuring efficient and effective lines of communication between all key stakeholders to facilitate improved consultation and engagement.

Mallaig – Armadale Infrastructure Working Group Variable
  • Transport Scotland
  • CalMac Ferries Ltd
  • CMAL
  • Mallaig Harbour Authority
  • The Highland Council
  • Sleat Transport Forum
  • Road to the Isles Marketing Group
  • Sabhal Mor Ostaig

To develop options and proposals for the medium and long-term provision of appropriate vessel and shoreside infrastructure on the Mallaig to Armadale route to accommodate forecast growth and provide operational resilience.

Outer Hebrides Implementation Group To be determined
  • Transport Scotland
  • CalMac Ferries Ltd
  • CMAL
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • HiTRANS

 

To Consider and promote options for the long-term provision of ferry services to, from and within the Outer Hebrides.

RET Evaluation Research Advisory Group

 

Variable
  • Transport Scotland
  • Peter Brett Associates (PBA)
  • Highland Council
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Argyll & Bute Council
  • North Ayrshire Council
  • CalMac
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
  • HiTRANS
  • Visit Scotland

The RAG involves stakeholders in the delivery of the project and provides the opportunity for them to inform the research, drawing upon their expertise and knowledge.

 

Network Strategy Programme Steering Group Every 6 weeks
  • Transport Scotland
  • CalMac
  • CMAL

To develop advice for Ministers on a programme of vessel replacements, deployments and disposals in support of: the delivery of the Ferries Plan, the on-going renewal of the fleet and responding to forecast demand across the network in an objective and transparent way.

To produce and consult on drafts of the Vessel Replacement and Deployment Plan annual reports.

To act as the programme board in overseeing delivery of vessel and port projects through individual project boards and steering groups.

 

Northern Isles Ferry Services

Name Frequency Membership Purpose of Group
Northern Isles Consultative Forum Variable
  • Transport Scotland
  • Orkney Islands Council
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • HiTRANS
  • ZetTRANS
  • Local harbour authorities
  • Local commercial ferry operators
  • VisitScotland
  • Serco NorthLink Ferries

To provide a forum for engagement on issues facing the local transport network including the Northern Isles Ferry Service

Orkney & Shetland Internal Ferries Working Group Variable
  • Transport Scotland
  • Orkney Islands Council
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • HiTRANS
  • ZetTRANS
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise

To oversee work to inform future decisions on funding and responsibility for internal ferry services following Ministerial commitment to fair funding in the Empowering Scotland's Islands Communities prospectus.

Shetland External Transport Forum Quarterly
  • Transport Scotland
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • ZetTRANS
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Local harbour authorities
  • Local commercial ferry operators
  • VisitScotland
  • Loganair
  • Serco NorthLink Ferries
  • Local Stakeholders
  • Representatives of the local community

To provide a forum for engagement on issues facing external transport including the Northern Isles Ferry Service

Stewart Building Group Quarterly
  • Transport Scotland
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • ZetTRANS
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Local Hauliers
  • Seafood Shetland
  • Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation
  • Shetland Fish Auctions
  • Shetland Fisherman’s Association
  • Shetland Fish Producers Organisation
  • Representatives from local aquaculture businesses
  • Serco NorthLink Ferries

To provide a forum for engagement on strategic issues facing Shetland's seafood sector.

 

Orkney Travel & Transport Forum Variable
  • Orkney Islands Council
  • HiTRANS
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Serco NorthLink Ferries
  • Representatives from the local community
  • Visit Scotland
  • Orkney Tourism Group
  • Local Hauliers
  • Local Commercial Ferry Operators
  • HIAL
  • Loganair
  • Stagecoach

To provide a forum for engagement on issues facing the local transport network including the Northern Isles Ferry Service

Caithness Transport Forum Quarterly
  • Caithness Chamber of Commerce
  • Highland Council
  • Transport Scotland
  • HiTRANS
  • Serco NorthLink Ferries
  • Local commercial ferry operators
  • Stagecoach
  • Scotrail
  • Local Harbour Authorities
  • Friends of the Far North Line
  • Local community representatives

To provide a forum for engagement on issues facing the local transport network including the Northern Isles Ferry Service

 

Audit Scotland - Transport Scotland's Ferry Services