Tag Archives: ferry

Scarinish Pier Car Park Closing

Car park closing sign Isle of TireeMay 2014 sees the beginning of Argyll and Bute Council’s £1.1million road reconstruction project which will tackle road surfaces on all of the public roads on Tiree.

Last week Co-op shoppers were greeted with a notice stating that ‘All cars must be removed from the Pier Car Park by Monday 28th of April’. Karen Jameson confirmed that Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) will be facilitating Argyll and Bute Council in their endeavour to re-surface the roads. We decided to get in touch with Mark Calder from Argyll and Bute Council to find out more:

“Argyll and Bute Council is currently undertaking £1.1million of road surface dressing work on all of the public roads on Tiree as part of the 2014 roads reconstruction project. The council has commissioned Kiley Brothers, one of the UK’s leading specialists in carriageway and footway surface treatments, to carry out the work on our behalf.

“ The public car park at the pier head is not publicly maintained; and the contractor needs storage space for up to 300 tonnes of surface dressing material and this is the ideal location. The council has obtained written approval from CalMac to use the car park. Notices have been placed locally to advise of the closure and those businesses directly affected have been informed. The material will be delivered to the island in three separate loads, with the first one expected on May 7th. The programme of works indicates completion by the end of May; however, this is dependent on the weather.”

Losing this parking space, which is already congested at busy times from Easter onwards, leaves us wondering where on earth people will park at the pier… Catriona MacLennan, a concerned local business owner has also been in touch.

Catriona, who is firstly delighted that road improvements are being carried out also raises some of her concerns about the impact that this work will have on her business.

Catriona expressed that “No alternative parking is being provided for ferry users. Congestion to MacLennan Motors fuel and garage will be intensified. The road at the top of the pier to the left is a dead end and no sign is in place to inform travellers coming off the ferry who park all around the area making access more difficult.” She also stated that “Communication with the local public and businesses in the area has been non-existent, which is extremely disappointing.”

The Local Community Development Trust states that, “It’s great that money is being spent on the roads, however, it’s unfortunate that as well as the disruption that upgrading the roads will cause, there will be further disruption and congestion at the pier during this busy time of the year.”

Further communication with Finlay McRae of CalMac assures us that “there will be no impact or change to ferry operations at Scarinish”

 

Sophie Isaacson & Louise Reid

Scottish Ferry Services Plan 2013-2022

The recently announced ten-year Ferry Plan was made public in late December with Transport minister Keith Brown saying:

“The long-term future of ferry services in Scotland is vital not only for Scotland’s economic well-being but also for the people in our island and remote communities.Having concluded an extensive consultation which saw over 2000 responses… we are laying out how we will expand and improve ferry services across Scotland. Despite the substantial financial pressures placed on us by Westminster, we are determined to make good on our promise to deliver improved ferry services on a progressive basis and the final ferries plan will be our cornerstone in doing just that.”

The new plan impacts upon Tiree in three ways:- Service; RET; and Fares. The full document is available on-line but An Tirisdeach has included the elements relevant to Tiree here.

Coll & Tiree Service Provision

Assessment of Current Service Provision

Our routes and services needs-based assessment tool allows us to make an evidence-based assessment of current services for Coll & Tiree. The key difference between the current and model service profiles is the number of sailing days during the winter time-table period.The model service profile requires a daily service from Coll & Tiree during the winter period.

Future Service Provision

The Draft Ferries Plan consulted on the requirement to improve the number of sailing days in the winter period, with a commitment to extend the time-table to six operating days per week. The commitment was subsequently welcomed, although very few responses were received from residents of Coll & Tiree. Representation was also made, mainly from Mull residents, about the possibility of a limited number of sailings calling in at Tobermory.

Short term – winter 2013/14

Currently The Clansman provides an all year service for Coll & Tiree. The service is augmented during the summer time-table period with Lord of the Isles (LOTI). The difference in sailing days between the summer and winter time-table periods is because of the availability of these two vessels in the summer, as opposed to one vessel during the winter time-table period, as she is used as a relief vessel when the larger vessels in the fleet are rotated through their annual refit programme. The proposal for the winter of 2013/14 is to deploy the Isle of Arran to ensure a two-vessel service for Coll & Tiree during the winter period. The operational impact of this decision will be to provide an additional sailing day during most of the winter time-table period (the current winter time-table will apply during the annual 4 week refit period for the Isle of Arran).

Longer term – commencing 2016

In the long-term the Isle of Arran will not be available during the winter time-table period for this route (it will be deployed on the Firth of Clyde). The proposal for the new Oban-Craignure service during the summer period will see two vessels operate on this particular route. One of these vessels will be deployed during the winter time-table to Barra, Coll & Tiree to enable the improved level of service to continue to be delivered. At this time we will also consider what services may be offered to improve the level of provision within the new time-table.

Coll & Tiree Road Equivalent Tariff (RET)

Commitment

RET for passengers, cars including small commercial vehicles, and coaches to become a permanent feature on routes to the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.

Additional RET concessions

Commercial vehicle length – extension of definition of commercial vehicle from 5m to 6m.

Hay & Livestock – Returning lorries carrying hay or livestock travel free when empty, other than a charge to cover pier dues.

Shellfish – an exemption to the weight limit for Light Goods Vehicles less than 6m in length, carrying live shellfish, to allow them to qualify for non-commercial vehicle rate.

Large Commercial Vehicles

At the completion of the RET Pilot Study on the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree, Scottish Ministers were persuaded that there was not a compelling case to retain RET for commercial vehicles. Recognising the financial implications of such a decision for hauliers, a transitional protection scheme is currently in place for commercial vehicles on the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.

A study on freight fares is currently underway on the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree economies. The findings of this study will be used to inform future fares policy for commercial vehicles. Our intention is to first consider the findings and then set up a working group to take this forward and will consult with key stakeholders as we do this.

Future RET formula

Our Draft Ferries Plan indicated that further work was required around the precise rates for RET. We have now carried out this work and have set an updated RET formula. This formula has been applied to the pilot for Islay, Colonsay & Gigha and steps will now be taken to introduce this to the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.

EDITOR’S COMMENT

Service

The new plan has committed to providing one extra sailing per week by deploying Isle of Arran to run alongside The Clansman in the short term, and a vessel from the Oban-Craignure route alongside The Clansman in the longer term. However, the plan itself recognises that this only partially meets the Scottish Government’s own Needs-based Assessment, which recognised a need for daily winter sailings! Are people on Tiree happy with an increase to five winter sailings per week or do they believe that there ought to be a daily ferry throughout the year? Alan Reid MP said: “The Ferries Review is disappointing for Tiree and Coll. The draft review had stated that the Scottish Government wanted to move to a service that operates for at least six days per week during the winter period, but the Ferries Review will only give one extra sailing. Tiree & Coll will only get sailings 5 days a week for most of the winter and still only 4 days during a 4-week period. In this day and age six sailings a week is the minimum acceptable service and I will keep supporting the campaign for this.”

RET

The plan details how the Scottish Government has provided an interim protection scheme for Coll & Tiree to reduce the impact of the removal of RET from commercial vehicles. It outlines the ongoing study on this decision on our island economies and commits to the establishment of a working group and consultation process once this study is completed. The Editor believes that it is essential for Tiree to be properly represented during this process. Tiree must have its voice heard so that we do not then suffer the financial implications of hugely increased haulage fares. An Tirisdeach will be reporting on this process on a regular basis and welcomes comments from the community.

Coll & Tiree Fares

The Press and rival politicians have jumped on the announcements of these new fares calculated by the updated RET formula, which links fares to the cost of travelling an equivalent distance on land. The average increase will be 8.2% for passenger, car and small commercial vehicle fares, and there will be a cap of 10.6% across all routes.

Transport minister Keith Brown said: “the update reflects the current costs of driving a car. The additional revenue generated by applying the updated RET formula for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles will be reinvested in commercial vehicle fares, in order to reduce the impact of the removal of RET for commercial vehicles on services to the Western Isles, Coll & Tiree.”

Labour infrastructure spokesman Richard Baker said: “It has taken over two years to publish this ferries plan, but now it has finally been revealed, Ministers are seeking to alleviate the effect of their regrettable and damaging decision to scrap RET for commercial vehicles on routes to Coll, Tiree and the Western Isles, but are doing so in the context of fare hikes across the routes which will be damaging to the economies of island communities.”

Argyll & Bute MP Alan Reid said, “These inflation busting ferry fare increases of up to 10.6% are daylight robbery. The SNP are robbing islanders with 10% ferry fare rises. The SNP’s excuse – that the price of petrol has risen – is pathetic. According to the AA, the price of petrol has only gone up by just over 1% during the past year.” As one on-line commentator noted: “Whatever the basis used to calculate fares, it is not ‘Road Equivalent Tariff’ – that would be 45p per mile for a passenger vehicle. So, the 63 miles from Oban to Tiree should be £28.35 (£0.45 x 63). In fact, it is £56.75 – double what an RET fare should be. All fare reductions and discounts are welcome, of course, but it is wholly misleading to call the current scheme a ‘road equivalent tariff’ system.” However, if the Scottish Government is true to its word and does indeed reinvest the revenue from increased fares into helping to pay for offsetting the removal of RET for HGVs on Western Isles, Coll and Tiree ferries, then for once Tiree might actually benefit.. Chris MacRae, the Freight Trading Association’s head of policy for Scotland said: “We welcome the announcement of the Ferries Plan, and particularly the recognition that the impact of the removal of RET for HGVs must be mitigated. Freight and HGVs are a vital part of ensuring the viability and economic stability of island communities. The working group that the Scottish Government commissioned is reviewing the study into the impact of the removal of RET for HGVs. This report is due soon, so recognition that the effects of removal of RET for HGVs need to be mitigated is welcome news. What we need to see going forward is evidence-based policy making.”

More News On RET And Hauliers

cargo containers

Graham Laidlaw of Transport Scotland Ferries Unit flew into Tiree on the morning of Monday 30th January with Cllr Mary-Jean Devon and Cllr Roddy McCuish of Argyll & Bute Council, to meet 20 or so delegates representing the crofting, fishing, construction, retail, tourism and haulage sectors on Tiree and Coll.

The purpose of Mr Laidlaw’s visit was to listen to the islanders’ views on the government decision to remove commercial vehicles from the existing RET scheme. Mr Laidlaw left the island with a petition of 233 signatures.
In a well prepared, composed meeting, the Tiree community made its view clear that this decision will be ‘catastrophic’ for the economies of Tiree and Coll and will leave these fragile islands at ‘breaking point’ with unmanageable increases in costs for businesses and individuals.

Fuel prices, already 25ppl higher than the mainland will go up by another 1.25ppl. Tommy Barbour fuels has been quoted an increase in his ferry ticket from £214.80 to £370.80 for a tanker of fuel to the island. The cost of exporting livestock, the backbone of Tiree’s economy, will increase by 103%. Donald Morrison of United Auctions advised that this is going to make it very difficult to keep customers coming to the island to buy livestock. Small fishing businesses and croft businesses stand to lose £5 – 7 thousand a year. Iain MacKinnon of I.A. MacKinnon Haulage advised that the price of an articulated lorry carrying general goods will double. These costs will be passed onto customers increasing prices of building and agricultural supplies, coal, food and so forth.

Contrary to the government’s justification for its decision that ‘savings from RET have not been passed on by hauliers’ and ‘haulage is largely insensitive to RET’, there is a united view across all sectors that this is not the case. There was unanimous agreement that without RET freight prices would have escalated alongside the increasing costs associated with the industry. Tiree builder Angus MacKinnon pointed out to Mr Laidlaw that freight to Tiree and Coll is ‘ring-fenced’ and not driven by the price of the ferry tickets. Hauliers working on this route are providing life-line services carrying essential goods such as fuel, food and animal feed and exports of shell-fish and livestock. Councillor Mary-Jean Devon pointed out that she was ‘amazed that the government even expected there to be an increase in freight volume due to RET’. It was pointed out that whilst tourist traffic has increased during the RET pilot, tourist spending had not. Tiree was ‘full’ in the high season before RET and is still full. RET has encouraged the same number of visitors to bring extra or larger vehicles and trailers.

The notion in the Draft Ferries Report that tourism has seen the greatest benefit from RET has not been properly researched and the statement is distorted. Proposals put to Mr Laidlaw at the conclusion of the meeting were:

  • Ministers could simply instruct CalMac to increase fares across the board by a modest percentage to claw back the £2 million shortfall in the budget for RET.
  • That the implementation of the proposal be postponed pending full consultation on how the decision will affect the island economies.

Alan Reid, MP for Argyll & Bute has decribed the Scottish Government’s plans as ‘Outrageous ’. He told An Tirisdeach
“they are robbing Peter to pay Paul. I have written to Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown pointing out that his proposals will increase the cost of living substantially on the affected islands. I have urged him not to go ahead with these proposals”.

Professor Neil Kay, an Economist at Strathclyde University said that the Scottish Government’s policy on cheap ferry fares is economically illiterate and misguided. He said
“What is the point of offering a shop assistant cheap fares to the mainland if she cannot afford those fares because the business she worked for has just gone bust? You do not need an economist to answer that question – just common sense. No self-respecting economist would support RET as a device to get fares down.”

Looking Back At Tiree

van on ferry

These photos were sent by Iain Mackinnon, London (son of Alastair Mackinnon, Hillcrest).

Clansman ferry

Does anyone recognise the van (registration 716 HGB) or know the name of the ferry’s Captain? I‘m told the ferry is the Mv Clansman but I’m not sure, and the photos were taken in 1962 – 1964.

If any of you can help please call in to the Business Centre Monday – Friday 9.00am – 1.00pm or telephone 01879 220520

Cal-Mac Chaos?

g_chalmersI’m sure that following the events of Friday 29th to Sunday 31st May there must have been a few raised eyebrows when I was quoted in the Oban Times as commending Calmac Route Manager Ian Fox for his efforts following the breakdown of the Clansman.

I must say that on Saturday morning at 6.30am in Craignure, with a cup final ticket in my pocket, I was far from happy to be told that the first sailings from either side had been cancelled; I mean a cup-final is pretty time-sensitive – after all, 56,000 people are hardly going to wait for me to get to Hampden.I had to do some serious rearranging, but I finally made it with two minutes to spare.

I arrived back in Mull on the Sunday and started to get stories about the various inconveniences visited upon travellers throughout Saturday and Sunday with many more cancellations, and it became apparent there would also be disruption to other islands which would filter through to me later. I therefore asked Ian Fox for a full detailed timeline and the rationale behind what had been done to secure services to the islands. The very next day Ian obliged with an email that ran to 4 pages and gave a full picture of the scale of the disruption and how decisions were arrived at to provide services to Tiree, Coll, Castlebay, and Mull.

It is obvious that Mr Fox and his Masters and their crews worked extremely hard to try and maintain services while what had seemed a routine repair originally expected to take 6 hours ran into two days. Some points were made in the Email which are worth passing on.

Replacement vessels are not easy to locate for these routes. Early on Saturday enquiries with regional manager at Islay about the availability of MV Isle of Arran showed this vessel fully booked for every sailing on Saturday up to 8.20 pm. It then sailed to Oban and performed an improbable overnight return journey to Lochboisdale. Required rest periods meant a further reshuffle and further disruption.

I am sure your readers do not need me to tell them about the delays on the Coll and Tiree services. What is clear is that there is much to be praised about the way the local staff and management performed, but there are nevertheless questions about how this situation can arise.

Why is it so difficult to get replacements if one vessel breaks down and why is the result so seemingly chaotic? In truth there are a variety of contributing factors, never forgetting that vessels DO break down and staff DO need to rest. Not all vessels can get into all piers. Even if there was another vessel in the fleet it would be running a regular route rather than lying idle waiting for a breakdown, so unless you have an entire crew and vessel to spare at any time (dream on!) there will always be a reshuffle and the attendant cancellations and delays- it’s just inherent in the system.

At Ferry Consultations over the Spring I have heard it said that Calmac’s fleet needs a capital investment of some £30m to start to address the ageing state of the fleet. Lead times on new build ships are several years. Even if three new ships were ordered now, they wouldn’t come into service till 2013 or later. None of this makes particularly happy reading but I am glad the Government is trying to establish a long-term ferry strategy to identify and work to resolve these types of problems before the system breaks down entirely.

I can be reached on 01688 302 689 or by email on gordon.chalmers@argyll-ukbute.gov.