State-owned CalMac Ferries has won a new £900 million contract to continue operating the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) for eight years from October 1, 2016.
CalMac and private company Serco Caledonian Ferries — which runs the NorthLink ferries to Orkney and Shetland — had been competing for the Clyde and Hebrides contract.
But the Scottish Government said on Thursday that CalMac had been chosen as the preferred tenderer for the next Clyde and Hebrides contract.
It said CalMac’s bid makes almost 350 commitments to improve the service, “aiming to help drive economic growth, improve customer service and make sure the company delivers value for money.”
The Scottish Government said CalMac’s proposals include:
- £6 million investment in vessel and port improvements
- Introduction of smart and integrated ticketing systems on key routes
- Increasing passenger/vehicle traffic by 10% and commercial traffic by 12% over the course of the contract
- Providing more opportunities for local employment, including more apprenticeships
- Creation of a new Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement post and a Communities Board to better involve communities in investment and services decisions
- Retaining its head office in Gourock and maintaining its status as a Living Wage employer
- All existing routes and services will continue to operate as they do now
CalMac has also committed to retaining the CalMac pension scheme and have a policy of no compulsory redundancies.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “CalMac have 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 those communities served by these vital transport links and ensures that we can maximise the 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 Scottish 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 will 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.”