Scottish Ferry Services: Ferries Plan (2013-2022)

Chapter 1: Introduction

1. Ferries are an essential part of Scotland's transport network. The quality of our ferry services impacts on all of us, affecting both island and mainland communities. It is in recognition of this that we have carried out this first ever comprehensive review of ferry services in Scotland.

2. The review culminates in producing this Ferries Plan, which sets out strategic guidance for the provision of ferry services in Scotland over the next 10 years. We are proud that we have taken responsibility and led the way in carrying out the Ferries Review. There is much that can be achieved in the very short term but there are some proposals that will take a bit longer to deliver. There can be no doubt however that the proposals presented in this Ferries Plan have the potential to greatly improve ferry services for many of our fragile communities.

3. We said in the Draft Ferries Plan that our aim is to maximise the economic and social potential of our remote rural and island communities. In addition to building on the current success of sectors such as oil and gas, fishing, aquaculture, tourism and whisky production, we are excited at the expanding possibilities for renewable energy. To achieve this we understand that the quality, reliability and affordability of transport links, along with other measures, are vital for successful social and economic growth.

What is this document for?

4. We explained in the Draft Ferries Plan that for most areas we were clear about the way forward. For these areas we set out our views. We explained that we still needed to gather views and opinions on the type and level of service each community should receive. We presented a number of options for delivering ferry services to each community, and asked some specific questions about each of our proposals.

5. In this document we provide communities with a clear view of our intended way forward. This includes an update of the progress we have made in taking forward issues around funding, fares, accessibility, responsibility and the environment. We also set out the conclusions we have reached in relation to the level and type of ferry service each community should receive.

6. Our intention is that this Ferries Plan will deliver first class sustainable ferry services to communities, stimulating social and economic growth across Scotland.

7. As noted above, there is much that can be achieved in the short-term but there are some proposals that will take longer to deliver. We have had to prioritise our spending and this is covered in more detail below.

The purpose of the Scottish Ferries Review

8. The purpose of the Review has been to:

  • develop a shared vision and outcomes for lifeline ferry services in Scotland, in the context of the Government's Purpose, Economic Strategy and National Transport Strategy;
  • analyse the current lifeline ferry services and network, identifying how well it meets the proposed outcomes and how it links to the rest of Scotland's transport network;
  • inform the Scottish Government's long-term plan for lifeline ferry services in Scotland and influence the next round of procurement of ferry services;
  • identify policies to be taken forward to deliver the long term plan, including the planned investment framework.

The Ferries Plan makes recommendations regarding:

  • where investment should be focussed to make improved connections for island and remote rural communities;
  • improving reliability and journey times;
  • seeking to maximise the opportunities for employment, business, leisure and tourism;
  • promoting social inclusion.

9. We have considered these issues within a framework designed to maintain the exemplary safety record of Scotland's ferry services.

How the Review has been carried out

10. We made clear in our Draft Ferries Plan that we have tried to be as inclusive, open and transparent as possible. This approach has continued in the last year, following the publication of the Draft Ferries Plan for consultation. We have continued to listen and engage with communities to inform our thinking around what the final Ferries Plan should include. The Review has been led by the Scottish Government but we have been helped in forming opinions by a Steering Group, a Council Group and an Operators Group. This involved input from organisations and individuals with a range of views, perspectives and expertise.

11. A considerable amount of data collection and analysis, including a household survey, was carried out in relation to all aspects of ferry service delivery and usage. We appointed consultants to provide us with detailed information, and have drawn on the expertise of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) to advise us regarding vessels, ports and harbours. Highlands and Islands Enterprise advised us regarding the economies of the communities reliant on ferries. All of the consultant's reports and a report on the household survey are available on the Ferries Review website.

12. The Draft Ferries Plan was published in December 2011. The consultation process ran from 21 December 2011 to 30 March 2012 and attracted 2,051 responses. This included 1,415 separate consultation responses (1,213 from individuals and 202 from organisations) and 636 submissions of a campaign proforma calling for a Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry service.

13. A high-level Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was undertaken on the proposals set out in the Draft Ferries Plan. Consultation on the SEA ran until 30 March 2012.

14. An analysis of consultation responses will be published on the same day as this Ferries Plan, along with an Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA). A Post Adoption Statement will also be made available following publication of this Ferries Plan.

National Objectives in Providing Support to Ferry Services

15. All proposals set out in this document contribute to the Scottish Government's overall purpose to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

16. The Ferries Review was a commitment of the National Transport Strategy (NTS) which set out 5 strategic objectives: Wealthier and Fairer; Smarter; Healthier; Safer and Stronger and Greener. Following publication of the NTS, Transport Scotland identified a number of delivery priorities closely aligned to these objectives. The Ferries Review takes account of each of these priorities.

The Current and Future Position

17. Appendix 2 provides an overview of proposed changes to ferry routes in Scotland; Appendix 3 shows maps of ferry routes in Scotland, including a new route between Campbeltown and Ayrshire; Appendix 4 provides tables detailing each of the ferry services in Scotland along with details of our plans for RET and future responsibility.

Future Procurement Issues

18. The Scottish Government is engaged in a reform programme for public sector procurement which is intended to enhance economic impact and value for money as well as to diversify sources of procurement such as social enterprise. Within this context we have published a separate policy statement on our future approach to ferries procurement. A copy is provided at Appendix 6.

State of Finances

19. Since the Ferries Review was initiated, it has been clear that the financial context in which we are operating has changed. We explained in the Draft Ferries Plan that we are now operating in an environment where public expenditure is under sustained pressure and where real terms reductions in the Scottish Government's budget are expected for some years. We said that there was a need to identify where we can get most value for our investment. The proposals presented in the Draft Ferries Plan therefore necessarily reflected an awareness of this increasingly challenging financial reality.

20. This position has not changed. We are faced with significant and growing increases in both resource and capital costs to maintain existing ferry services. Scottish Government spending on ferry services has increased significantly since financial year 2007/08 to 2012. Spend in 2007/08 was £85m, which increased to £110.6m in 2012/13, an increase of 30.1%. In 2013/14 our projected spend is in the region of £116.3 m of public money for our ferry services and this is expected to increase year on year. This includes the significant necessary ongoing investment for vessels, ports and harbours replacement required over the period of the Final Ferries Plan.

21. Given the tight budget pressures, it is clear that we are not able to deliver all of our proposed improvements to ferry services in the short term. Although we remain committed to delivering these improvements, we need to prioritise our available funding. In considering how we should prioritise funding, we have taken account of what changes represent the best value for money in terms of the benefits to the communities being served. We have of course also had to consider what is affordable, and when, within the severe budget pressures in which we are working. In doing this we have tried to focus on maximising the utilisation of the current fleet and looking at achieving the maximum level of services possible within existing resources. This however will still require an additional level of funding. We have then looked at what would be achievable if we secure an additional vessel for the network, and if we make changes to harbour infrastructure.

Summary of Proposals

22. Despite the difficult financial pressures over recent years, it should be noted that we have continued to provide all of our essential ferry services and have been able to invest in new vessels. We have also maintained all of our existing vessels, and maintained and developed existing ports and harbour infrastructure. We have also committed in recent years to introducing the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme, which will lead to cheaper fares across the network. It is in this context that we are now committing to making the following further improvements to ferry services in Scotland.

Immediate (Short-Term)

23. There is a significant amount that we can do very quickly. From 2013 the following significant improvements will be made:

  • We will provide two vessels for Arran all summer (May-September) resulting in an increased number of sailings;
  • We will introduce a new two year summer only (May-September) pilot ferry service between Campbeltown and Ayrshire, via Arran - 3 days per week;
  • We will improve the winter service between Oban and Coll and Tiree;
  • We will improve the winter service between Oban and Barra/South Uist;
  • We will provide a significantly improved service to the Small Isles;
  • We will offer on a pilot basis an additional later evening sailing to Cumbrae;
  • We will extend the operating day on the Colintraive-Rhubodach service until 9 pm all year round; and
  • As a temporary step we will for the summer months introduce a service on a Saturday from Colonsay, via Islay, to Kennacraig.

24. These changes will drastically improve the provision of ferry services to a number of our island and remote communities. Further detail is provided in Chapter 3 of this document and in Appendix 2.

Interim CHFS contract

25. By purchasing a second small passenger only vessel during the course of the CHFS contract period we will be able to:

  • Provide an increased level of service to the Small Isles, supplementing regular ro-ro services with passenger only services. We will ensure that the ro-ro service continues to provide the Small Isles with a fully adequate freight service;
  • Subject to a transfer of responsibility to Scottish Government, we will offer zero fares between Jura and Islay when that journey is part of an onward journey to the mainland;
  • Provide a dedicated vessel to Colonsay - increasing the number of sailing days in both the summer and winter; and
  • Provide a dedicated vessel for Mull during the winter period - offering an increased frequency of sailings.

Next tendered CHFS Contract

26. During the course of the next tendered CHFS contract period our plan is to secure an additional vehicle and passenger vessel for the network. This will allow us to:

  • Provide a second vessel for Mull allowing for increased frequency all year;
  • Continue to provide an improved winter service between Oban and Coll and Tiree;
  • Continue to provide an improved winter service between Oban and Barra/South Uist;
  • Provide an additional vessel on the Ardrossan-Brodick route during the winter which can also provide the Campbeltown-Ayrshire service during the winter (subject to the outcome of the pilot).

27. All of our proposals are subject to future Spending Review commitments.