Islands Connectivity Plan: Transport Scotland plan to “manage decline”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Council for the Western Isles) has delivered a scathing verdict on the Scottish Government’s Islands Connectivity Plan which charts a future course for ferry operations.

In a response to consultation on the plan, the Comhairle repeatedly accuses Transport Scotland of reducing capacity on ferry routes rather than planning for future demand, says the Stornaway Gazette.

The criticism comes at a critical time when SNP Ministers must decide whether to entrench Transport Scotland’s dominant role in future governance of ferry services under the new CalMac contract; an option widely opposed in the islands. In a report to the Comhairle’s Transportation Committee, chief executive Malcolm Burr wrote: “The draft Islands Connectivity Plan seems to be focused on managing the decline of island ferry services by seeking to reduce capacity rather than supporting growth through increased capacity”.

It continues: “Visitor numbers to the islands are growing year on year and renewable energy developments over the next ten years will bring demand for thousands of additional vehicle and passenger movements”.

The Comhairle submission to the consultation argues that there is an obligation to take account not only of existing demand but also “potential demand – passengers turned away” and “invisible demand” meaning people “who don’t even bother trying to book because they are aware of the state of the ferry network generally”.

Economic studies, says the Comhairle, have shown both these categories represent many millions of pounds lost to the islands due to the state of the CalMac fleet while the Islands Connectivity Plan fails to recognise them in planning future capacity.

(PIc – TripAdvisor)


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