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Scottish Region Policy Group response to the consultation on "Ferry Services in Scotland"

The responses below are those of members of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport(UK) Scottish Policy Group who have contributed to the discussion on "Ferry Services in Scotland." The Policy Group does not have the depth of local knowledge to comment on the points raised: e.g. new routes, frequency of service etc., for individual routes so comments are confined to broader issues.

We welcome the TICCC's endeavours to obtain a broad spectrum of views in writing, electronically and through public meetings and visits. On the latter two aspects the Policy Group would suggest a greater effort be made to include all Clyde Estuary services which between them generate more than half of the total carryings of CalMac in every sector of traffic. We would also advise the TICCC to be aware of the need for balance and objectivity in assessing the views received, there is a danger that "everyone will want more of everything and cheaper please".

It is the Policy Group's view that Government needs to be clear on the objectives it is trying to achieve with regard to ferry services. Is the main objective to bring about to the maximum extent possible the economic regeneration of the islands and remote communities with social aspects as a secondary, although still important objective?

Or is the main objective to eliminate to the maximum extent possible the time and distance disadvantages of the islands and remote communities by improving services and reducing cost to the users, to as it were integrate these places more closely into Scotland in the belief that economic regeneration will follow?

Or is the objective to provide an adequate level of service at more or less acceptable levels of cost to minimise the amount of subsidy - basically the line followed so far? The Policy Group has gained the impression that Government wants to move away from this policy towards one of the other two or, more likely a combination of both which is likely to increase the cost to Scotland as a whole in sustaining and improving these services.

Government needs to seek on a route by route basis the answer to the question, "what are ferry services for"? Some are clearly "lifeline" services primarily concerned with sustaining remote communities with some seasonal tourist traffic. Others are more complex facilitating the movement of goods to the islands to meet the needs of island consumers, whilst providing a service for the export of island products and meeting the travel needs of islanders overlaid with substantial levels of tourist traffic, e.g Mull.

Yet others in the Clyde Estuary, link islands and the Cowal peninsula into the economy and society of the West of Scotland. Government needs to be clear not only what the users of these services expect from them - one suspects they will not be slow in telling them - but also how Government sees these services and these communities in the overall context of Scotland.

Turning briefly to integration - in some areas, Oban for example, because the different organizations concerned in through service provision, optimise the various factors involved - cost, frequency etc. to meet the objectives of their organization, the result is a sub-optimal outcome for passengers due to the individual organisation's rigidities, e.g. crew costs and hours, railway time tables, paths and capacity.

This is an area where the Policy Group considers that the Inquiry should aim for a seamless journey for passengers with regard to both service and ticketing. The TICCC is well placed to bring this about. The Policy Group welcomes the introduction of a prolonged trial of fares based on the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET). The information gleaned from this trial could result in a re-assessment of new route viability, making new routes possible.

With regard to the Clyde Estuary is it sensible that Arran, Cumbrae and Bute integral parts of the West of Scotland should be inaccessible to and from the rest of the country from 2000 at night until 0600 the following morning? Perhaps this is to preserve the "island way of life" but however that may be interpreted does that mean that the bulk of taxpayers who are paying for ferry services should be unable to have a summer evening on these islands?

The Policy Group reiterates the points made earlier; Government must be clear about its expectations of ferry services before becoming involved in routes, frequencies etc.


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