Category Archives: Tiree Community Council

Tiree Community Council – June Meeting

Bicycling on Tiree, ferry cancellations and proposals for a new Marine Protected Area around Tiree were three subjects debated at the last meeting of Tiree Community Council before the summer break.

The Community Council recently received a letter from a bicyclist. Tiree’s single-track roads – built for the horse and cart and now used by everyone from crofters hauling seaweed or moving cattle, to joggers, fire engines, cyclists and campervans, including those who are here on holiday and those who call the island their home – usually work pretty well. But we do hear from time to time about incidents, and it seems that some cyclists and some car drivers occasionally rub each other up the wrong way on Tiree roads.

The spotlight fell on the current leaflet about bicycling on Tiree, and the accompanying notice board on the side of the Coop. This advises cyclists to dismount if approached by a car.

This advice was driven by safety: Tiree’s roads look inviting, but they can be hazardous when busy, and in an accident, it’s obvious who is going to come off worse. Councillors felt some guidance was still needed, but that it should be in accordance with the Highway Code.

We will update the material to reflect the fact that all road users on Tiree have an equal right to use the public highway. As a first step, we decided to contact the local policeman and Police Scotland’s Divisional Local Road Safety Partnership Rep to get the most up-to-date advice. In the meantime, we will take down the notice at the Coop. I would be interested in your comments on this issue.

The meeting also discussed the proposal to establish a Marine Protected Area in the Sea of the Hebrides. This extends north to Skye, west to the Uists and south as far as Islay.

This MPA is designed to protect basking sharks, minke whales, productive areas of the sea where two bodies of water meet and mix (so-called ‘fronts’), and something called the Inner Hebrides Carbonate Production Area – in other words, seabed with lots of shells – that generates the shell sand that creates the island’s machair. A proposal to gives the seas around Tiree.

Special status has been in the pipeline since 2014 and is supported by conservation groups such as the Marine Conservation Society. It is not clear at the moment what restrictions this designation might place on island businesses, particularly fishermen. There is a public meeting about this on Tiree on 19 July, and again, I welcome your views.

Earlier in the day, Tiree Transport Forum and members of Community Council had met Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac, and Robert Morrison, Head of Service Delivery Operations for the company. This was in response to growing dissatisfaction in island communities who felt that their ferries were getting less reliable, with an increasing number of cancellations due to weather and mechanical breakdowns. An in-depth analysis by the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee showed that the Mull ferry cancellation rate was thirty times greater in the winter of 2014/15 that in the winter of 1999/2000 – despite the weather being comparable. The pair disputed these figures, but did admit that the cancellation rate was higher on the Oban-Coll-Tiree route than on other routes in the network. Part of this was due to the fact that the ferries were getting older – the Clansman is twenty-one years old – because the Scottish Government has invested too little in the fleet and the two latest replacement vessels were now held up by mysterious delays at the Fergusson Marine shipyard on the Clyde. But they made the fair points that health-and safety regulations are now much stricter; that there had been a number of serious berthing incidents such as last year’s damage to the Hebridean Isles at the Gott Bay pier; and that their nonstop schedule now meant that ferry sailings could no longer be put on hold for six hours.

We were told that the old scenario where a skipper would ‘give it a go’ is a thing of the past, and the occasional cancellation was the price we would have to pay for journeys that were safer for passengers, crew and cargo. An idea to reserve some tickets for local passengers is unlikely to come to anything, as CalMac’s contract with the Scottish Government means that every passenger applying to purchase a ticket has to be treated equally. We made the point forcefully that lifeline deliveries on a cancelled sailing should be given absolute priority for the next boat. We also argued that many Tiree passengers would prefer that decisions to cancel sailings were not made too far in advance.

We have been promised a by-election to allow us to recruit more community councillors. When this comes round, do please consider putting your hat into the ring. It’s the island flagship and we badly need more crewmembers! The Community Council has applied to Argyll and Bute Council to lease the public toilets in Scarinish and organise their cleaning at no cost to the council. Despite this seemingly attractive offer, the council has not been able to come to a decision as we go to press. We had also applied to Argyll and Bute for an increase in our grant from £400 to £600 a year to allow community councillors to travel to the mainland to attend meetings. This request has been turned down under pressure from larger community councils on the mainland.

Although there will be no public meetings over the summer, your community council remains alive and well. If you have any issues you would like our help with, please contact me.

Tiree Community Council -April Meeting

A new plan to renovate Tree’s phone boxes; ferry reliability (again); and the effectiveness of the new EE mast at Garraphail were all discussed at length at this month’s Community Council meeting.

John Patience presented a plan that he and Rhoda Meek had developed to do up the eleven K6 telephone boxes that the community council had bought two years ago. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, the project has had a break and the boxes have aged rather ungracefully in the meantime.

John and Rhoda have now re-visited every box, photographed and assessed it, and worked out what repair work is needed and how much it might cost. Their idea is to take the work to the box, rather than uprooting them all to a central workshop. The power supply will be isolated, new hardwood glazing beads fitted and the doors repaired on the island, and the paint stripped and new panelling installed inside. Their central idea is for each township to ‘adopt’ their phone box, providing a local ‘champion’ who will coordinate most of the work locally.

Each township will then decide the box’s colour scheme and what the box then becomes used for: a defibrillator site, (mini) pop-up restaurant or …. Each box will have a panel designed by An Iodhlann with details of the township’s history and culture. The costs? Around £1,000 for each box.

The council thanked John and Rhoda for their impressive report and agreed to continue with the project. Possibly when it is completed, they may be passed to another organisation to look after in the longer term.

There was a detailed discussion about ferry reliability. There has been a good deal of talk about cancellations on the ferry service, and we heard last month from island hauliers what a headache these are causing. Now the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee have produced a report that shows that cancellations on the Oban-Craignure run have risen in the last three winters, and that the Oban-Coll-Tiree route is even worse. They bought weather data from the last twenty years and it appears to show that cancellations were thirty times higher in 2014/5 than they were in the comparably stormy winter of 1999/2000.

The discussion recognised that the ships’ captains and management have a difficult job – none of us take as many risks as we used to, the vessels are older and less reliable, and the same fleet is being asked to do more sailings. We will write our own report for our representative Stewart MacLennan to take to the Calmac Community Board meeting at the end of the month.

The air tender results should be known at the beginning of May. We have been having some useful discussions with Scottish Government politicians and officials to see if we could present a petition to the Scottish Parliament, and we will prepare ourselves in case we get bad news on this front.

Gerard McGoogan has done some interesting research on the new EE mast at Garraphail. We have had conflicting accounts about its effectiveness, and it turns out that it was not working to full capacity yet. Some parts of the island were getting a great signal, but it was still poor in others. There seem to have been issues with relays from the mast on Ben Gott, but some of this may be a simple commercial calculation. We have a new contact with the company and will press to get the very best service for the most number of people before the summer.

The state of the public toilets was yet again brought up. It was felt that Argyll and Bute and the community council needs to get on top of this problem once and for all. We have applied to take them over as community toilets, but our paperwork appears to have gone into a black hole. This will be our number one priority this month.

Dr John Holliday was in the chair, Ian Gillies and Alison Clark were in attendance. Robert Trythall sent his apologies. John Patience has agreed to join the community council under the ‘Skills and Knowledge’ arrangement to supervise the telephone box project.

The next meeting will be on 8 May, both to avoid the bank holiday, but also timed to be after the opening of the Argyll Air Service tender documents.

COMMUNITY COUNCIL BY-ELECTION

Argyll and Bute Council has agreed to hold a by-election for Tiree Community Council now that our numbers have fallen to two elected and two co-opted members. We are not allowed to hold a meeting if there are less than three councillors present. A date has not been set, and the European elections may (or may not!) affect matters. But do get in touch with me if you are interested. It is absolutely crucial that we have a strong council on the island.

Tiree May Lose It

Cast your memory back to the summer, and the August Consultation regarding Argyll Air Services from Oban to Coll, Tiree ,and Colonsay which are subsidised by Argyll and Bute Council (A&BC)

A&BC decided in Feb 2018 to reduce its subsidy to £512,207pa for the new tender period ie 2019-2022. This was a reduction from £720,756 pa from the previous tender period.

Argyll Air Services were put out to tender in Sept 2018. When the tender closed two months later (Nov), only one submission was received. It was rejected, being deemed non-compliant. This sole bid was from the current service provider, HebAIR.

TCC /TTF has not been informed as to the reason(s) HebAIR bid was rejected ,but can only assume the reduced subsidy was a significant factor. In the interim period A&BC has considered options to move forward. After intense lobbying, jointly from Coll,Colonsay and Tiree Community Councils, the Policy and Resources Committee(PAR), at its most recent meeting decided to retender the tender, but under EU tender rules, any resulting positive tender award can only re-commence services from 28 June 2019.

It is unclear, at this stage, what the re-tender will specify , but Tiree has to anticipate that air services to Oban may cease as of 15 May 2019. TCC/TTF has submitted the letter below to all parties ,including Mike Russell MSP ,and hopes for a positive outcome from this re- tender to ensure a prompt re-commencement of Oban air services.

To all parties: Argyll Air Services. We were obviously relieved to hear last week that the Policy and Resources Committee (PAR)decided to re-tender for the Argyll Air Service. We do appreciate the considerable sums that Argyll and Bute Council have spent over the last decade, both on the PSO itself and the running of three airports. We on Tiree place an extremely high value on this service for the reasons set out in our joint letter to the PAR Committee. Clearly, it would be a major step backwards if an island group such as the Inner Hebrides did not have an air service connecting it to its regional hub. We are committed to restoring the service as soon as possible after it lapses on 15 May 2019. Our concern now, however, is that simply sending out exactly the same tender documents to the same airlines will result in the same answer: no compliant submissions to the tender.

Our feeling now is that Argyll and Bute Council should introduce additional flexibility into the second tender document to allow any potential operator to make a value for money bid, based upon their own operating and cost centre criteria. This would maximise the chances of retaining a renewed Argyll Air Service within the financial constraints agreed by the Council for the next three years. As part of this flexibility, one proposal that you might want to consider is switching the Oban-Tiree service to a commercial basis route. On this basis, Oban-Tiree would come out of the PSO and operate in much the same way that Hebridean Air Services currently operates the Oban-Islay route. Our understanding is that passenger figures and profiles are broadly similar on the Tiree and Islay routes.

We have to say that we have been disappointed over the last two weeks by the lack of information and consultation that our community’s representatives have received from elected Council members and officials. We do understand the principles of commercial confidentiality, but we do not think we should be receiving almost all of our news from the media. We would certainly be interested to see a copy of the new tender document. Please come back to us if you would like to discuss this further

Thank you for your work on this project,

Yours sincerely, John MacCaskill, Chair, Tiree Transport Forum Dr John Holliday, Convenor

Community Council News

At a well attended meeting on Wed 5th Dec the main topics discussed were ;-Tiree High School, Marine Litter, Linkspan replacement, CalMac’s Winter 2019-20 time table consultation and the update of ongoing TCC matters.

At the outset, TCC advised that it would be meeting with Tiree’s County Councillors, in January, to discuss Council budget issues, prior to Feb’s A&BC’s Council Budget meeting. Tiree High School;- Will Wright, chairman of the Parents’ Council gave a detailed briefing of current issues at the school. This was followed by a lengthy general discussion, with many parents offering input. TCC advised that it would assist the Parent’s Council as required, and would attend,as an observer, the forthcoming PC meeting with various educational bodies.

Transport issues:-

are a TCC perennial! TCC still has an on-going dialogue with Loganair on wheelchair access, but the main transport topic was CalMac’s Consultation on the Winter 2019-2020 time table. The Transport Forum,having assessed the options, was divided on maintaining the current status quo, or requesting closer alignment with the Summer timetable. TCC’s meeting reflected this division,but was advised that Transport Scotland’s cost-neutral requirement of any table change would probably dictate no change.

The Transport Forum has requested that any future discussion on CalMac time-tabling, should be a genuine consultation, and not a tick-the- box exercise.

LinkSpan Replacement:-

The comprehensive public presentations by CMAL and CalMac were briefly discussed. Feb- March 2020 has been decided for the work period. Both presentations are on the TCC website, and includes a list of Qs TCC has asked CalMac to clarify by our Feb meeting. ( http:// www.tireecommunitycouncil.co. uk/tiree-linkspancmal-andcalmac- presentations/ )

Public toilets:-

re Community Ownership of Scarinish public toilet, A&BC’s initial response was favourable. TCC awaits further input from A&BC.

Marine Litter:-

TCC had received two detailed correspondences, one of which had been copied into Mike Russell MSP. Steph Cope gave a detailed presentation with particular reference to Scottish Govt policy, and initiatives . TCC is taking this issue further via MR By this time,eyes were drooping, so we rattled through the last couple of agenda items agreeing to seek clarification from A&BC on specifics re implementation of the Islands Bill, and advising the meeting that following the passing of the Crown Estate Bill, kelp harvesting would be subject to a Scottish Govt Regulatory Review, ie kicked into touch.

Councillors Willy Angus Maclean, Robert Trythall and Ian Gillies attended. Apologies were received from Alison Clark, and Dr John Holliday.

Tiree Community Council News

It was another long meeting, but there was plenty to talk about: the linkspan closure, an upgrade to the airport embarkation equipment, and a green light to discuss the pros and cons of taking the Scarinish public toilets into community ownership. The month had been full of meetings to report back on.

We had met Kevin Hobbs, the chief executive of CMAL, the company that owns the ferry fleet and the Tiree pier on behalf of the Scottish government. It was a chance to hear from the horse’s mouth about the shipyard delays on the Clyde, which mean the two new ferries are seriously behind schedule.

The Tiree linkspan is being replaced in February/March 2020, and we have to be prepared for the fact that we won’t be able to get cars or lorries on or off the ferry at the Gott Bay pier for four weeks. There is an important meeting on Tuesday 4th December 4-7.30 pm in An Talla, where CalMac and CMAL staff will do their best to answer our questions. The Tiree Transport Forum will make sure the engineers are aware of the big dates in the Tiree calendar so they can work round them.

We also met Michael Bratcher, who oversees air services within Transport Scotland. The contract for the flights between Tiree and Glasgow is up for renewal next year, and airlines will again be bidding. Passenger numbers are reassuringly up, and it looks as though services will continue much the way they are. Something Michael particularly likes is the ‘flight banking’ system that Tiree operates. This means that a few flights can be cut in the winter months and then used at the times of year of our choice when it’s busy. One piece of news is that a new and heavier SAAB is coming into operation, one that the Tiree runways cannot cope with. So the only planes coming to Tiree from next year will be the Twin Otter and the Kingair ambulance plane.

I also met our three local Argyll and Bute councillors last week. They had flown out from Oban to the island for the day, and were delighted with the convenience of the flight. When I pointed out that the Council had agreed to cut the subsidy of this service drastically, they were absolutely sure that the Oban- Tiree flights would be safe. Let’s hope they’re proved right!

While they were there, I took the opportunity to ask them for a bigger grant for Tiree Community Council to allow us to get to mainland meetings. They absolutely supported this. Let’s hope they’re successful!

There has been a problem over the last year with access to the Twin Otter for people who need help to get into the aircraft. The Stairclimber equipment to lift passengers up the steps is not powerful enough. The community council has been lobbying HIAL, who run the Tiree airport, as well as Loganair, to get a more powerful version, and we are delighted that HIAL have now done precisely that.

Another issue we have been chewing away at for over a year is the block of land next to Pier View in Scarinish. This was provisionally sold by HIE to MacLeod Construction, but has now come back on the market.

Finally: toilets. Every year the council cuts come closer. What has sharpened our interest recently has been the closure by Highland Council – apparently the UK’s ‘largest provider of public toilets’ – of most of their councilrun toilets in a bid to save £500,000 a year. Argyll and Bute councillors discuss the same cut every year too. We have taken the view that the Scarinish toilets, which everyone agrees are completely essential, are vulnerable, and we would be better to open a dialogue now to see if the council would consider passing them into community ownership. Community toilets are becoming more common – there are good examples in Biggar, Arisaig and the Kyle of Lochalsh. Things are at an early stage, but we have started the ball rolling. Now we will wait to see what sort of deal the council will make the community.

Councillors Dr John Holliday, Robert Trythall and Ian Gillies attended. Apologies were received from Willie Angus MacLean and Alison Clark.

Community Council News

Ferries, this year’s Armistice Day service at the War Memorial, and seaweed harvesting were some of the subjects discussed at this month’s community council meeting.

This had been delayed by a week to accommodate an important session of the Tiree Transport Forum with senior CalMac management earlier in the day. There has been a lot of frustration with the company over the last six months, with the prolonged absence of the Clansman and complaints about the booking system, centred around the weekend of the 10k. David Gibson (Director of Service Delivery for the whole company), Robert Morrison (Head of Operations North) and Finlay MacRae (Area Operations Manager North) acknowledged that the DOS-based system running ticketing was over twenty years old. An attempt several years ago to replace it had ended in failure, and a new £20 million request for its replacement was on the desks of ministers in Edinburgh. A new system was at least two years off, and in the meantime, they recommended using the website to get information about sailings.

David has instigated a new integrated control centre, so that ferry disruptions can be handled centrally, and he promised the company would be quicker at getting a work-around for problems in future. Everyone acknowledged that the fleet, with an average age of over twenty years, was struggling to keep pace with demand, particularly after Road Equivalent Tariff boosted numbers of tourists visiting the islands.

The Tiree ferry linkspan is due to be replaced in the autumn of 2019. This will mean a month when no vehicles will be able to access the boat. This will present a serious challenge; fortunately, Coll will be going through the same process six months earlier, giving us a chance to learn from that exercise.

Another issue that came up was the uncertain ownership of the car park at the pier head. There have been issues over long term parking there, but no one seems to know which body has title to the ground, and no one is currently managing it.

Our annual request for a change for the Barra boat in summer from Wednesday back to Thursday is just not possible at the moment, although the launching of the two new ferries currently on the slipway at the moment might free up timetables eventually. These vessels, known as 801 and 802, are seriously behind schedule and over budget; we will be lucky to see them before winter service 2019-2020 and late summer service 2020 respectively.

Another issue, which Alan Millar brought up, was the November 11th service at the War Memorial. Since the 1920s, this has taken place on the Saturday afternoon. This year marks the centenary of Armistice Day, with the 11th falling on the Sunday itself. We discussed whether to change the service to the Sunday afternoon for this year only. Alan will discuss the matter with the leadership of both churches.

Phones boxes came up for discussion, too. An ambitious project by the community council to buy and renovate all but one of the public phone boxes on the island has ground to a halt after an enthusiastic start last year.

By good fortune, one of those attending the meeting had bought and renovated a phone box for his wife’s birthday. He knew from first hand how difficult and expensive it could be. One suggestion was to move all the boxes from their current locations, use the best parts from all of them to repair one or two that could then be positioned in the most useful places, selling some of the spare parts left over to finance the project. A group will meet soon to look at the problem afresh.

I took advantage of a recent visit to the Coll Homecoming to chat to some members of their Community Council. Their issues are the dreadful state of their roads, and the desire of many islanders for a door-to-door recyclables collection. Some of the ferry timetable changes they were seeking were diametrically opposed to ours.

Marine Scotland has sent Marine Bioplolymers, the company seeking permission to trawl for kelp around Tiree, back to the drawing board, to apply again area by area. We will keep a close eye on the situation.

Dr John Holliday, Robert Trythall, Ian Gillies and Alison Clark were in attendance. William Angus MacLean sent his apologies. Sadly, Andy Wright has stepped down from the council.

Tiree Community Council September Meeting

Kelp dredging around the island, a significant reduction in the support given by Argyll and Bute Council for the Tiree- Oban flight, and the state of houses at Pier View came up for discussion at amarathon two-and-a-half-hour session of Tiree Community Council, the first after a two-month summer recess.

A company called Marine Biopolymers has submitted plans to trawl for kelp around Tiree. Kelp beds are breeding grounds for small fish, and the fear is that removing them would cut the catch of the island’s fishing fleet. The beds also cushion the force of Atlantic storms on the coastline, and the worry is that trawling them could make erosion of our sandy beaches, already an issue,worse. There could be less storm-cast seaweed for crofters to use on their fields. The effects on seals, basking sharks and animals like dolphins are also unknown, having a possible knock-on effect on sea life tourism. And large quantities of discarded kelp ‘stems’ might wash up on the island’s shores as an unsightly and smelly mess. We will respond to Marine Scotland in the next week with a list of our concerns, having won an extension.
Argyll and Bute Council have decided to cut the annual subsidy for the Oban-Coll-Tiree air link by a quarter, from £735,000 to £525,000. The service is going out to tender early next year. The worry is that the sum won’t be enough to attract an operator, and the service could be cut to one day a week or even stop completely. The flights are particularly popular with patients going to Oban hospital, allowing them to return the same day. We were concerned that the figures had been hidden deep in the council budget report, and needed a lot of digging to find them. We will lobby hard to preserve this service, one of the achievements of the last community council.We also decided to ask Highlands and islands Airports to see if there was a better way for disabled passengers to access the Glasgow plane than the current Stairmaster.
The poor state of housing at ‘Tank Farm’was also raised. We will try to meet as many residents as we can to get a fuller picture, and then get back to West Highland Housing Association. We also decided to chase up Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who sold a plot of land next to Tank Farm to MacLeod Construction of Lochgilphead, over the heads of two island groups.
The next meeting of the council will be on 10 October. Alison Clark and Ian Gillies were co-opted for a two-year term. The next elections will be in 2020, when two seats will be up for grabs.
Dr John Holliday, William Angus MacLean, Robert Trythall and Andy Wright and twelve members of the public were in attendance.

Tiree Community Council

On the hottest day of Tiree’s summer 21 hardy souls, in equatorial conditions,attended the June meeting.

The main topic was CalMac, and issues arising from the Clansman’ s extended dry docking and repairs.

CalMac:-

Angus Campbell formerly leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar,and Chairman of the newly formed CalMac Community Board (CB) ,held the floor for nigh on an hour and half. He outlined the role and function of the CB , its bi-monthly meetings with CallMac, his direct access to the Minister of Transport ,and attendance at two CalMac Board meetings/year. To understand the genesis of the CB, and its Remit, please go to:- https://www.calmac.co.uk/community-board

Having covered the CalMac issues that the CB was currently addressing he took Q’s from the floor. These were overwhelmingly directed at CalMac’s ‘not-fit-for-purpose’ reservation system, exacerbated by Gourock’s abysmal customer information service. Peripheral issues were (a) the lack of capital investment in ferries, (b) poor contingency planning, and (c) the poverty of response from both Humza Yousaf, then Minister of Transport ,and Robbie Drummond( CEO CalMac), to the Tiree ferry issues TCC had raised with them, at the outset of the Clansman’s protracted dry-docking.

It was decided that TCC would summarise these issues in a formal submission to the CB, to be raised /addressed at the next CB Board meeting with CalMac scheduled for the end of Aug . This would also be submitted to David Gibson, CalMac’s Director of Service Delivery, to respond to ,on CalMac’s yet to be arranged Tiree visit.

TCC expressed its gratitude to Angus Campbell for addressing the meeting, and offering detailed responses to all the questions raised .

Other Issues:-

On conclusion of this lengthy CalMac discussion, it was decided to press on with the balance of the Agenda. Due to the near universal, lack of responses from Loganair, Scottish Government, and A&B CC these were expeditiously dealt with, and rolled-over to the next TCC.

Upgrades in internet connectivity have progressed ,and cleaning issues re the Scarinish Public Toilets have been resolved.

Co-option:-

The meeting was advised that TCC has vacancies for 2 co-opted members and it is hoped that these would be filled in time for its next meeting (5th Sept ) Gratefuly, we emerged into glorious sunshine, and cool evening air .

New Tiree Community Council Takes Office

A new-look Community Council for the island formally took over last week at their first meeting, chaired by Tricia O’Neill, Argyll and Bute Council’s Central Governance Officer. Dr John Holliday (the new convenor), Robert Trythall (secretary), William Angus MacLean (vice-convenor),Andy Wright (treasurer) and Donna MacLean take over from the previous council. Sadly, Emma Rossiter has had to hand in her resignation because of family circumstances.

After the council had been set up, discussions moved onto the issues of the day. Chief amongst these was the difficulty resulting from the damage to the Clansman,which had meant a return for the smaller Lord of the Isles. This had been unable to cope with the surge in traffic over Easter and at the May bank holiday, but the biggest problem had been the online booking system, which proved far too inflexible to cope with the disruption.Many people had their travel plans affected. Businesses relying on visitors are likely to have taken a big hit. We have already written to the Cal-Mac management about this, but it must not be allowed to happen again and we will press hard on this issue.

The previous council had been inundated with complaints about the lack of reduced-fare tickets on Loganair flights to Glasgow. Roy Bogle has replied for the company. He effectively said that Loganair was facing big hikes in costs from airports and for fuel. To compensate, no further cut-price fares were being offered during the busier summer months. To be fair, Loganair’s contract with the Scottish Government does not compel them to offer discount fares, but the company has been selling some tickets at a cheaper rate to encourage people to travel. This contract is up for renewal next autumn, but the community council will begin negotiations with Transport Scotland in a few months time, and we will do our best to ensure reduced fares are back on the table.

The other big issue was the future of the Scarinish public toilets. Argyll and Bute Council have, in the past, threatened to close them, and the buildings were getting pretty run-down. As the only public toilets on the island, it is obvious that they are a fundamental part of our infrastructure.

The question is: should the island try to take them over, or should we fight to get the Council to put in some much-needed investment? This is rapidly becoming one of our top priorities, and we will work on this over the next few weeks. We are now down to five members, and we are going to ask two people to join the council. Rules for this have now been relaxed, and co-opted councillors are able to sit for two years.

We want to be as open as we can, and, with several tech-savvy new members, we hope that our website, Facebook and Twitter feeds can be developed. Our next meeting will be at the end of June. Let us know if there are issues you think we can help with (contact our new secretary Robert Trythall on rob@tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk).

Dr John Holliday (doc.holliday@tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk)

Loganair Respond to Communities Fare Concerns

Over the last few months, Tiree Community Council has received copious amounts of comments and letters from members of the community, concerned about growing fare prices on the Tiree – Glasgow route, introduction of lower weight restrictions and lack of promotional deals available to Tiree customers.

Tiree Community Council have been actively communicating with Loganair representatives to get a response to the above complaints and Roy Bogel has now issued us with an update with regards to the pricing structure:

Thank you for your note. On every Loganair flight throughout our network, pricing relates to the expected levels of demand for the service. We continually adjust pricing in an effort to achieve sustainable route economics.

Although the Tiree service is a PSO, if our revenue falls short of the forecast we have submitted as part of our bid to fly the route over the four-year bid period, it is exclusively Loganair’s issue and we have no recourse to Transport Scotland for any such shortfall. As you may also be aware, the PSO provides for a £1 increase per year in the price of each of the five fare “buckets” we have available. This is wholly insufficient to keep pace with increases like Glasgow Airport and HIAL fees and charges, increases in maintenance costs on the Twin Otter aircraft and ground handling costs, before we even get to considering any cost of living increases for our own employees.

The increase in landing and per-passenger charges this year at Glasgow and Tiree airports amount to £1.43 per passenger before any other issues come into the equation. The result of this is that we are selling slightly fewer seats at the two lowest fares this summer than we did last year. Frankly, to cover the costs of the provision of the service, we can’t avoid it; and it is not something for which we should apologise.

With a limited increase of £1 per fare per year, it’s impossible to keep pace with the inflation of airport maintenance and ground handling costs that are an unavoidable consequence of providing the service. As already mentioned, airport charges amount to a £1.43 increase and the sum of the other costs is broadly similar. The PSO only regulates the maximum fare that can be charged, and it does not oblige any operator to offer a lower fare, let alone the range of lower fares that Loganair continues to provide.

To put this into context, we see a position where average fares paid by customers are around £3 higher than last year as a result of the changes – i.e. recovery of the extra costs but not a penny more. One could be forgiven for thinking that this had morphed into the Great Plane Robbery given the level of contention, but an average increase of £3 is the reality of what the change amounts to. We have kept a number of the cheaper fares available but the seats at those fares have now sold out for the summer ahead, and those seats remaining are at higher prices (but still well within the maximum permitted under the PSO).

I’d like to reiterate that the Saturday night stay requirements have not changed and have been in place on the lower fares for over 25 years, based on our archive of Loganair historic pricing information. It is not, contrary to opinion, a new or indeed recent change and it may well date back to policies in place well before 1992. It’s necessary to keep pace with the increases in cost of provision of the service and I can assure you that we’re only doing what we see as absolutely essential. Indeed, if we over-recover (and we’re not doing!) then any excess generated by Loganair is passed straight back to Transport Scotland under the PSO mechanism, so we have no incentive nor motivation to increase fares unduly as we stand to gain no benefit – and plenty of adverse comment – from doing so.

We remain firmly committed to providing the very best value that we can and firmly believe that we’re doing so this year.

To sum up the letter, Loganair have failed to acknowledge any sympathy towards increased fare prices and have explained that they are operating within their current PSO agreement.

The letter confirms that all cheaper fare brackets have now sold out for the summer ahead, suggesting to us that there are very limited ‘just fly’ tickets allocated to each flight.

Tiree Community Council is currently undertaking its handover period with the new Tiree Community Councillors and it is understood that the PSO document is due to be confirmed later on this year.

TCC will work on ensuring the next PSO agreement is more variable for the Tiree community and includes stipulations such that will address the current issues.

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