An enhanced timetable is being proposed for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network from next summer, Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay has announced.
The planned improvements follow engagement with communities across the CHFS network, and will help deliver commitments made in Scottish Ferry Services: Ferries Plan (2013-2022).
Mr Mackay said: “As Minister for Transport and Islands, I know how important our ferry services are to the communities of the Clyde and Hebrides and the vital role they play in enabling continued and sustainable economic growth for the Islands.
“Since taking up my post I have spoken to stakeholders throughout the network, from councils to ferry users groups, to see if changes can be made to ensure our ferry services continue to deliver the best possible service.
“This enhanced timetable offers a number of improvements: proposals include increasing capacity on certain services, offering more sailings and reorganising vessel deployment to get the most from our ferry fleet.
“It will also help manage the expected increase demand from the full roll out of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), which gives island residents and visitors access to significantly reduced fares.
“We have also placed an order for two new major vessels and their delivery in 2018 will represent further enhancements to West Coast ferry services.
“These measures underline the Scottish Government’s commitment to essential ferry services for the communities that rely on them and will ensure that our islands remain attractive and accessible to visitors.”
CalMac will now undertake a consultation process with communities across the network, with a view to bringing these enhancements in as part of next summer’s timetable.
Among the proposed enhancements are:
A daily direct return service between Oban-Barra with a dedicated vessel, delivering a considerable increase in capacity.
A daily direct return service between Lochboisdale-Mallaig using a dedicated vessel.
An additional 50 weekly sailings on the Oban-Craignure route, with additional vessels supplementing the MV Isle of Mull. This means Oban will become a commutable destination from Mull for the first time.
10% more sailings on the Mallaig-Armadale route.
Over 30% increase in capacity on services to Coll, Tiree and Colonsay.
CalMac's, director of operations, Drew Collier said: “Listening to our customers is central to the service we provide. This enhanced timetable answers many of the questions we have been getting asked about how we could better tailor our services to suit the needs of the communities we serve.
“The two vessel service on the Oban-Craignure route, serving Mull, will balance off the additional capacity issues we would expect due to Road Equivalent Tariff fares being introduced on this service.
“While we are significantly improving connectivity to the Outer Hebrides for both tourists and residents.
“It has been arrived at by listening closely to our customers and I look forward to hearing their views at forthcoming consultations.”