The SNP Government has confirmed that Calmac Ferries Limited is the preferred tenderer for the next contract to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network.
Commenting on the announcement, local MSP Kenneth Gibson said:
“I’m delighted by the confirmation that CalMac is the preferred bidder to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services, as I have said all along they should and would be. It’s great news for travellers to and from Arran and Cumbrae as well as CalMac’s 1,300 employees across Scotland. After a fair, open and transparent tender process this is a great outcome and one to be welcomed.
“The contract award lays bare the repeated unfounded claims and misrepresentations made by Labour during the recent Holyrood election campaign that the SNP was privatising ferry services, while ignoring the fact that the Conservative Party actually argued for privatisation. If Labour demands to halt the tendering process had been followed, months of expensive legal wrangling, uncertainty for passengers and CalMac staff would have ensued, inevitably delaying this contract award and negating the improvements to services the process secured.”
CalMac’s bid makes almost 350 commitments to improve the service to help drive economic growth, improve customer service and deliver value for money. These include:
• £6 million of additional investment in vessel and port improvements.
• The introduction of smart and integrated ticketing systems on key routes.
• Increasing passenger/vehicle traffic by 10% and commercial traffic by 12%.
• Providing more opportunities for local employment, including more apprenticeships.
• Creating a new Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement post and a Communities Board to better involve communities in investment and services decisions.
• Retaining its Gourock Head Office and maintaining its status as a Living Wage employer.
• All existing routes and services will continue to operate as they do now.
In addition to these proposals, CalMac has committed to retaining the CalMac pension scheme and a policy of no compulsory redundancies. The tender price for the contract is around £900 million for eight years from 01 October 2016.
Speaking in Ardrossan, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added:
“CalMac has a long and proud tradition of running the Clyde and Hebrides routes, and the company is woven into the fabric of the communities they serve. Their tender offers a good deal for communities served by these vital transport links and ensures we can maximise opportunities to support and nurture our island economies.
“CalMac will better manage demand to drive an increase in traffic, as well as make the ferry services more attractive with the introduction of smart ticketing on key routes. The SNP Government has made a clear commitment to our ferry services, investing a record £1 billion in port infrastructure, vessels and services since 2007.
“Scottish Ministers retain control of all of important issues, such as fares and timetables, through the public service contract. Vessels and port infrastructure will also remain publicly owned as they are now. This new contract looks to make further improvements our ferry services, and I look forward to CalMac starting the new contract later this year.”