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9 March 2010

Fare rise to protect lifeline ferry services

The Scottish Government has announced a 2 per cent fare increase across the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network in a move that will protect lifeline services in the face of today's tough economic climate.

The increase will apply to all tickets other than the multi-journey tickets most commonly used by islanders. Commercial vehicles and coaches will be exempt. The rise is in addition to the published fares increase of 2.2 per cent which will be applied to bookings from the beginning of this summer season.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The Scottish Government is responding positively to the very real challenges on public spending which are facing us. We are taking decisions which will allow us to maintain the efficient ferry services which the public currently enjoy.

"We are committed to ensuring all remote and fragile communities are linked into the wider Scottish economy. This underpins our commitment to investigating Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) as the basis for future ferry fares.

"That is why we are committed to the RET pilot to consider the most effective and sustainable way to improve the affordability of ferry services to our islands. Since the launch of the pilot, we have seen a significant increase in the number of visitors, family and friends and businesses visiting the Western Isles."

Other efficiency measures include a timetable change to NorthLink's Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland routes to ensure more fuel efficient running. This will mean a revision to the current timetable with precise details to be finalised shortly.

Discussions will continue with NorthLink about further opportunities for efficiencies, particularly during the winter when there is a large amount of unused passenger capacity on the Aberdeen-Lerwick route.

The fare changes on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services will start on March 26 to coincide with the start of CalMac's summer timetable.

The timetable change to NorthLink's Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland routes will involve ferries running on two engines instead of four for the length of the journey. This drop in capacity will increase journey times.

The Scottish Government is providing record levels of support to Scotland's lifeline ferry services, some £103.1 million in the current financial year and some £105.0 million in the next financial year. These compare to a figure of some £91.4 million in 2006-07.

Stewart Stevenson
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