Scottish Ferry Services: Ferries Plan (2013-2022)



Current Service Provision

103. The current service between Mallaig and Armadale runs seven days per week all year. There are typically eight sailings on a Monday to Saturday during the summer time-table period, with less on a Sunday. In the winter the number of services drops significantly to two services per day Monday to Saturday and one service on a Sunday.

Future Service Provision

104. In the Draft Ferries Plan we consulted on proposals to retain the existing service, both during the summer and winter, with the winter service continuing to receive a subsidy and the summer service, recognising the revenue potential, being offered with minimum subsidy.

105. Our proposal attracted a degree of criticism from the local community. In particular there was a concern that the proposal to offer minimum subsidy during the summer would inevitable lead to higher fares. The argument was that this would have an adverse effect on local tourism.

106. We have taken careful consideration of these representations. We can confirm that the service will continue to be tendered within the network and be maintained at current levels. In addition, fare level going forward will be determined by future fares policy for the network.


Current Service Provision

107. Raasay is served by a ferry service that links Raasay with Sconser, on Skye. The crossing time is approximately 25 minutes. The service operates 7 days a week all year. During the summer time-table period the service operates on a frequent basis from around 8 am to 6 pm (there is a later sailing at 8.30 pm on a Saturday). The service day on a Sunday is significantly reduced with only two services at 10 am and 4 pm leaving Raasay. The winter service is very similar to the summer service.

One of the new 'hybrid' vessels currently being built by Ferguson Shipbuilders, will be deployed on the Raasay service from summer 2013, following on from the £12m of investment in Raasay pier in 2010. Funding for these works came from both Scottish Government and the Local Authority. Work has begun on the upgrade of the Sconser ferry terminal, including a new waiting room, toilets, car parking and marshalling facilities. The new terminal is due to open in summer 2013. These works will cost approximately £2 m and will be met by funding from the European Commission. Work on widening and lengthening the slipway for the introduction of the Hybrid vessel will also be carried out at a cost of £1.5 m, funded by Highland Council.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

108. Our routes and services needs-based assessment tool allows us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services for Raasay. The key gap is the length of the operating day during the summer period. The model service profile suggests that later evening services should be made available than is the case at present with the existing service. As noted above, typically the last sailing from Raasay is around 6 pm.

Future Service Provision

109. The Draft Ferries Plan consulted on a proposal to retain the status-quo of service provision for Raasay. It was decided that any possible changes that could address the service level gap would be disproportionately expensive. This situation would be kept under review and would be considered again at the time of the next tender for these services.

110. In response to the Draft Ferries Plan Consultation, the community council agreed that an adjusted time-table would be beneficial in allowing residents of Raasay to work on Skye, maintaining the viability of living on Raasay. There was also support from the Local Authority and a ferry/transport group in support of later evening sailings. In view of this the intention is to retain the recommendation of the Draft Ferries Plan. The prospect of evening sailings will therefore be kept under review and considered for the next tender period.


Current Service Provision

111. The Small Isles are served by a ferry service from Mallaig. The service leaves Mallaig and, depending on which day, calls in at various islands within the Small Isles group and returns to Mallaig. An island can receive two stops in a single loop, as the service calls first on its outward journey and then second, as it returns to Mallaig. On a Friday and Saturday the vessel makes two journeys, but it is still not possible for residents to make a meaningful return trip to the Scottish mainland in the course of a normal working day. The service effectively only permits residents to leave the island.

112. During the summer time-table period Eigg and Rum have five sailing days and Muck and Canna have four sailing days. There are no sailings on a Sunday. In the winter time-table period the number of sailing days reduces to four for Eigg and Rum and three for Canna, although one of these sailing days provides a Sunday service for Canna. Muck retains four sailing days in the winter.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

113. Our routes and services needs-based assessment tool allows us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services for the Small Isles. The key difference between the current and model service profiles is the number of sailing days. The number of sailing days for the current service ranges from between three and five days depending on the actual island within the Small Isles group. The model service would mean a seven day service for each island all year. The assessment also noted that it is not possible to make a meaningful return journey to the mainland from any of the Small Isles.

Programme for Future Service Provision

Short-Term - summer 2013

114. The Draft Ferries Plan consulted on a number of short-term measures that, taken together, would address some of the deficiencies with the current time-table. These were:

  • A new Sunday service to each island within the Small Isles group;
  • A Friday/Saturday level of service on more days (i.e. two sailings as opposed to one sailing per day);
  • At least one day per week a revised time-table would allow residents to make a meaningful return trip to the mainland in the course of a normal working day.

115. These proposals were welcomed during the consultation. We have worked with the current operator and changes to the current timetable, addressing all of the needs, will be implemented in summer 2013.

Medium-Term - (within the period of the interim CHFS contract, 2015/16)

116. As a medium-term proposal, the Draft Plan asked the affected communities to consider a two-vessel solution with a passenger and small freight service calling at each island seven days per week and supplemented by a once per week ro-ro service for vehicles.

117. These proposals were broadly welcomed by respondents. There was however some concern expressed about the Draft Ferries Plan proposal involving only one freight service per week. There was a call for a ro-ro service on several days per week to allow for greater flexibility.

118. We have taken careful stock of these views and are minded to retain a two-vessel service for the Small Isles as a medium-term proposal. A single vessel providing a passenger and vehicle service can not provide a seven day service to each island and for one of those days ensure that it is possible to make a meaningful return trip to the mainland. A two vessel service, including a fast passenger only service, would allow for this.

119. For a minimum of two days per week the service will be provided by a ro-ro vessel and on the remaining days by the passenger and small freight vessel which is still to be procured. This increases the role of the ro-ro vessel and recognises the concerns expressed regarding a once a week service. It should now be possible to plan activity involving vehicle movement to the Small Isles within a given week. We will ensure the operator consults with each community on the particular days for the ro-ro service nearer the time.

120. We believe that these new proposals offer the best way forward for the Small Isles service. A two-vessel service combines improvements in overall service provision - a service on each day of the week with a meaningful return trip to the mainland on one of these days - while maintaining a satisfactory level of vehicle access using a ro-ro service at least two days per week.


Current Service Provision

121. The current ferry service from Mallaig to Knoydart runs three days per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) all year. A service runs both in the morning and afternoon for each of the three sailing days. The service is not funded by Scottish Government.

Assessment of Current Service Provision

122. There was insufficient data to make a robust assessment of the routes and services for Knoydart using our routes and services needs-based assessment tool. That aside, the Draft Ferries Plan consulted on additional sailing days for Knoydart.

123. The consultation showed support for this proposal - one response was actually a collation of 27 responses from Knoydart residents - with people citing that additional sailing days would preclude the need to book overnight accommodation on the mainland, offer improved mail delivery and opportunities for the development of tourism. This is linked to the frequency of service.

Future Service Provision

Medium-Term - (within the period of the interim CHFS contract, 2015/16)

124. The intention then is that we will work with the community, the existing operators and our partners on how improvements could be made to this particular ferry service. It is certainly possible to include Knoydart as part of our medium-term proposals for the Small Isles, strengthening the present service with the addition of more sailing days for the community (see medium term proposals for the Small Isles).