Scottish Ferry Services: Ferries Plan (2013-2022)

Results by community

16. The following section sets out our plans for each community (and sets of communities). These conclusions have been reached following the consultation on our Draft Ferries Plan. Our plans have been considered by the current operator of the CHFS contract and Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited. However, they will be subject to final operational checks prior to implementation.

17. Appendix 2 provides an overview of our key proposals for each community.



Current Service Provision

18. Arran has two ferry routes; the principal route connects the main settlement of Brodick to the Scottish mainland at Ardrossan. A second route connects Lochranza on the North part of the island to Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula. This section considers the principal route, which is very popular with 730,000 passenger, 134,000 non-commercial vehicle and 13,000 commercial vehicle (longer than 5 metres), trips in 2010[1].

19. The current service is provided by a single-vessel service with a sailing duration of nearly one hour. A typical service day during the summer season runs from early morning through to early evening. The first sailing from Arran leaves around 8.30 am with the last sailing to the mainland around 7.30 pm. There are typically five sailings to the mainland each day. On a Sunday the operating day is truncated with four sailings and the first sailing to the mainland leaving around 11 am. A late sailing is also offered on a Friday. The winter time-table, with the exception of the late sailing on a Friday, is identical to the summer time-table.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

20. Our routes and services methodology allows us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services on the Ardrossan to Brodick route for Arran. The assessment identified a number of significant weaknesses in the current service provision for Ardrossan to Brodick. The frequency of the service on a typical service day needs to be increased. The length of operating day in the summer is also inadequate as a model service would operate further into the evening than at present.

Programme for Future Service Provision

21. Following a rigorous option sifting exercise, the Draft Ferries Plan consulted on the proposal to upgrade the service between Ardrossan to Brodick to a two-vessel service instead of the existing single vessel service. We can now confirm there was general support for this proposal in the Draft Ferries Plan consultation, and that this is the basis for future service provision on the Ardrossan to Brodick route.

Short-Term Measures - 2013

22. At present the service has one dedicated vessel, the Caledonian Isles, all year. The MV Isle of Arran - the reserve vessel in the fleet - operates for approximately eight weeks during the summer period[2]. The intention is to extend this arrangement meaning that the MV Isle of Arran is available for the almost all of the summer time-table (May -September) period.

23. Dedicating a second vessel for Ardrossan to Brodick during the more of the summer time-table period will allow for the introduction of a frequent shuttle service operating well into the evening, a substantial improvement on the current level of service provision. We anticipate that some of the stand-out features of a future time-table will be:

  • Additional sailings in the morning (between 9 and 10 am), mid-afternoon (around 3 pm) and late afternoon/early evening (around 6 pm). Some of these sailings will operate on all days of the week, others on some days of the week;
  • A late evening service at around 10 pm that will operate on some weekdays and during the weekend;
  • One sailing day with an early morning sailing at around 7am.

24. The intention is that the MV Isle of Arran will also provide a summer only pilot service between Campbeltown [3]and Ardrossan (via Arran). Some of the additional sailings between Ardrossan and Brodick will be shared with this new service. A new time-table will be introduced for the summer time-table period. The winter time-table for the Ardrossan to Brodick route will remain the same as at present.

Longer-Term (within the next main CHFS contract period, commencing 2016)

25. The Isle of Arran can only be made available as a dedicated vessel for Arran during the summer time-table period in the shorter-term. The purpose of this review of services is to ensure that we prioritise the greatest need amongst all communities dependent on the ferries network. For the winter period the most pressing requirement is to increase the number of sailing days to Barra, South Uist, Coll and Tiree. This will be met by assigning the Isle of Arran to these communities during the winter period.

26. Ministers have also made the strategic decision to increase the overall size of the fleet by one vessel capable of taking both passengers and vehicles. The impact of this measure will allow for the Isle of Arran (and the replacement vessel for the Isle of Arran) to be assigned all year to Ardrossan/Brodick, Kintyre (subject to the findings of the new pilot service during the summer time-table period) and the Firth of Clyde. This offers the prospect of an enhanced winter time-table on the Ardrossan to Brodick route and a possible strengthening of a Campbeltown service, depending on the outcome of the pilot.

Claonaig to Lochranza

27. As noted above, a second route connects Lochranza with Claonaig. Patronage levels in 2010 were 52,000 passengers, 17,000 non-commercial vehicle and 5,000 commercial vehicle (including bus) trips.

28. The Draft Ferries Plan asked a number of pertinent questions about the role of second routes on certain islands. The Draft Ferries Plan took the view that the service would need to be reviewed following any substantial upgrade of services on the Ardrossan to Brodick route. The subsequent consultation attracted a number of comments, particularly from Kintyre residents, about the need to maintain the service.

29. In the case of this route, the principal role is largely to provide a summer only service as part of an island-hopping strategy to support local tourism. This service also carries dangerous goods, which currently cannot be carried on the principal route. There is recognition that this route has a specific different purpose to the principal (Ardrossan-Brodick) route. On this basis, we have concluded that this route will be retained.


Current Service Provision


30. There is a service between Tarbert and Portavadie which provides a link between the northern end of the Kintyre peninsula and the Cowal peninsula. This is currently the only service linking the Kintyre peninsula to the rest of the Scottish mainland. This service provides a vital link for the local community and will therefore be retained.


31. There is also a service providing a link between Kintyre and Arran, Claonaig-Lochranza. This route will also be retained and the future of this service is discussed in more detail under the section for Arran.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

32. We said in our working principles that for communities where the ferry service is secondary to the current road network, that we would look at ways in which we could provide people with a real choice either by improving existing ferry services or consideration of a new route. Our Household Survey showed that a significant number of residents of Kintyre rely on the road network for travel to urban centres such as Glasgow. The existing ferry service is not seen as competitive with the road network.

33. An analysis of journey times between Campbeltown and Glasgow suggests that a new ferry service from Campbeltown to Ayrshire would offer substantial journey time savings over any existing road journey or combination of road and existing ferry services.

34. The Draft Ferries Plan consulted on proposals that would offer a passenger and vehicle ferry service between Campbeltown and Ayrshire. The response was encouraging and therefore further detailed work has been done on this proposal.

Future Service Provision

Short-Term - 2013

35. A new summer only pilot service will run from Campbeltown (via Arran) to Ardrossan. A service to Campbeltown is possible as a result of the planned substantial upgrade in service provision for the main Arran route to Ayrshire. The service could be provided by the MV Isle of Arran and any future replacement vessel. The service is likely to involve three sailing days from Campbeltown each week, and be timed to offer a reasonable day trip, an overnight and weekend stays on the West Coast of Scotland.

Longer-Term (within the next main CHFS contract period, commencing 2016)

36. Subject to the evaluation of the new pilot service, we could link the new service to the longer-term proposals for Arran[4]. These proposals are to have a second vessel available all year round, with the potential to provide an appropriate level of improved services on the Ardrossan-Brodick route and introduce winter services between Campbeltown and Ardrossan.


Wemyss Bay to Rothesay

Current Service Provision

37. Bute has two ferry routes; the principal route connects the main settlement of Rothesay to Wemyss Bay on the Scottish mainland. A second route operates between Colintraive (Argyll) and Rhubodach (Bute). This section considers the principal route, which is very popular with 735,000 passengers, 155,000 non-commercial vehicles and 12,600 commercial vehicles trips made in 2010[5].

38. The current Wemyss Bay to Rothesay service is a two-vessel service which runs seven days per week. A typical operating day starts early morning, leaving Rothesay at 6.25 am (Saturday and Sunday excepted) and runs through to early evening, around 7 pm. A later sailing runs on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, leaving Rothesay at 7.45 pm. During the period from early June until mid-August, a later sailing is offered on a Saturday leaving Rothesay at 9.10 pm. The sailing time is around 35 minutes. The winter time-table is similar in scope to the summer time-table, the main distinction being the loss of the later sailing times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

39. Our routes and services methodology allowed us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services on the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route for Bute. The key difference between the model and actual service profiles for the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route is the length of the operating day. A model service profile would involve an operating day that extends into the late evening. At present the service only operates to around 7 pm for the last sailing from Bute, although, as we have highlighted, there are a number of later sailings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. For the winter time-table, the model and actual service profiles are the same.

Future Service Provision

40. Any upgrade to the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay service was considered to be disproportionately expensive. The prospect of double crewing one of the two vessels that currently operate on the route was not regarded as a cost effective option to provide the relatively small additional benefit this would achieve. Additional services cannot be provided within existing crewing provision. Any later evening sailings would involve additional crewing. The Draft Plan therefore consulted on improvements to Colintraive to Rhubodach (see below) with Wemyss Bay to Rothesay retaining the same level of service provision.

41. Respondents to the consultation were minded that we should look again at any possible enhancements to the main Wemyss Bay to Rothesay service. We have done a substantial amount of work with the operator in the meantime and can confirm that the basic position has not changed. However the issue will be given further consideration at the time of deciding on the specification for the next tendered CHFS contract.

Colintraive to Rhubodach

Current Service Provision

42. A second route connects the village of Rhubodach (on the north of Bute) to Argyll at Colintraive. This is a very short crossing - the sailing time is only around five minutes. Although the north of the island is comparatively sparsely populated, the service is popular with tourists; this is reflected in the numbers of coach trips of around 4,000 in 2010. This is four times as many as for Wemyss Bay to Rothesay.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

43. The Colintraive-Rhubodach route is defined as a second route offering a substantial journey time saving and is therefore a main route for certain trips within the community. It is also considered as a route with a different purpose from the main route (for example, it might be mainly used by non-residents such as tourists, and may generate an economic benefit for the local economy). The importance of the route was recognised in the Draft Ferries Plan, which consulted on the prospect of a longer operating day for the Colintraive to Rhubodach service.

44. Opinion was divided with the proposal attracting some support, but also reservations from a number of people and organisations, who were concerned that it might offer limited benefits to the community.

Future Service Provision - Short-Term (2013)

45. In view of the response to the Draft Ferries Plan consultation, we will not consider improvements to the Colintraive to Rhubodach service to the extent suggested in the consultation. However, further work with the current operator has confirmed that it is possible to make minor improvements to this service in the short term which we believe will benefit the community. Between April and August the last sailing from Rhubodach is 9 pm (for the remainder of the year it is 8 pm). Under the new time-table arrangements the last sailing will be 9 pm all year round.


46. The town centre to town centre service between Gourock and Dunoon was re-tendered in 2011 and the current contract is due to come to an end in 2017. The new service operates on a shuttle-basis for seven days per week from early morning to very late evening but significant concerns have been expressed about its reliability. It is due to be reviewed in time for the next contract period.

47. Alongside this ferry service, a commercial operator provides a vehicle and passenger service, sailing between Hunter's Quay (Dunoon) to McInroy's Point (Gourock). This service provides a twenty minute crossing with four services per hour at peak periods. The service operates from very early morning to late evening.

48. Whilst the outcome of the recent tendering process was the best that could be achieved given the restrictions imposed by the European Commission, Scottish Ministers were disappointed not to be able to continue the vehicle and passenger service on the town centre to town centre service. It is also the case that users of the service have consistently expressed concerns about its reliability.

49. A three point plan for the development of the Gourock-Dunoon town centre route is already being taken forward:

1) The implementation of an Improvement Plan by Argyll Ferries - this action has now been completed; however, Transport Scotland continues to work with the operator to seek ongoing improvements. This includes consideration of infrastructure designed for use by passenger ferries.

2) The search for a replacement vessel for the MV AliCat - this action is ongoing.

3) A feasibility study of a future passenger and vehicle service on the town centre route, with the vehicle-carrying portion being non-subsidised, in line with European Commission requirements. A contract for this study was awarded to experienced transport and maritime consultants in November 2012; interim findings will be reported in February 2013 with the final report due in April 2013.

50. We will continue to work with Argyll and Bute Council, Inverclyde Council and the Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group to take these initiatives forward through a Steering Group chaired by the Deputy First Minister. Ministers will decide, once the feasibility study has concluded and has been considered by the Steering Group, what further actions are needed for this service. The Scottish Government's policy position is unchanged: we would like to see a vehicle and passenger ferry service on the town centre route.


Current Service Provision

51. Cumbrae is served by a single ferry service that links the main settlement at Millport with Largs on the Scottish mainland. The annual patronage figures for 2010 show that there were almost 730,000 passengers, 140,000 non-commercial vehicles and 5,000 commercial vehicle trips.

52. A two vessel shuttle service operates on the route during the summer months. A typical operating day is from around 7 am for the first sailing through to 8.30 pm. During the summer time-table period, two later sailings are offered on a Friday. The winter service is a truncated service provided by one vessel.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

53. Our routes and services needs-based assessment tool allows us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services for Cumbrae. The key difference between the model and actual service profiles is the length of the operating day. For the model service profile we are recommending an operating day that extends into the late evening. At present the service operates to around 8.30 pm for the last sailing, although, as we have highlighted, there are two later sailings on a Friday evening. For the winter time-table, the model and actual service profiles are the same so no change is required.

54. It was considered disproportionately expensive to provide evening services seven days per week. Instead the Draft Ferries Plan consulted on the prospect of later evening services for one or two evenings per week (building on the current Friday evening arrangements). These proposals did not attract any comments from the community, although comments largely in favour of the proposal were received from elsewhere.

Future Service Provision - Short-Term Pilot (2013 Summer Period)

55. We have interpreted no response from the community as evidence that our proposals were not unwelcome. In addition, positive comments were received from elsewhere. It is therefore our intention to introduce a pilot offering later evening sailings on one additional day during the summer time-table period. The pilot will run for the 2013 summer period only.[6] The existing arrangements on a Friday evening will be retained.