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Caledonian MacBrayne has won a new £900m contract to continue operating the Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Network, the Scottish Government announced yesterday (Thursday).


State-owned CalMac and private firm Serco Caledonian Ferries Limited had submitted bids to run the services, including the Colintraive – Rhubodach and Portavadie – Tarbert routes in Cowal.




The new contract covers an eight-year period from October 1.


Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac said: “We are proud to be given the opportunity to transform ferry passengers’ experience across the west coast of Scotland and to work closely with our partners to connect towns, cities and communities like never before.


“Our successful bid demonstrates our ability to provide innovative service improvements and value for money for customers. Drawing on our experience in the UK ferry market where we have won a number of awards, our bid delivers industry-leading customer care and high standards of reliability.”


He added: "Now the hard work begins in delivering this contract during challenging economic times."


Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said he was ‘delighted’ at the news.


Mr Russell said: "I am absolutely delighted that CalMac has won the tender and I congratulate the whole company, but particularly the CEO Martin Dorchester who ran the bid team.


“They have presented a compelling and comprehensive case for continuation of the company as the key ferry provider in Scotland. I am sure the vast majority of my constituents will be as pleased as I am, as will the staff who work so hard, in all weathers, to provide lifeline services.


Mr Russell continued: “However, years of under-investment by previous governments has led to a situation where there are regular difficulties on all routes because of shortage of vessels and lack of flexible options means much hard work still lies ahead.  


“Two new ships are now being built but there needs to be further investment in the fleet including re-conditioning of older boats to keep them in service.   The current difficulties with the Isle of Arran, which has not been able to operate the Campbeltown run for a fortnight, is a case in point.  New ships also have to be fit for purpose and the current failure of the mezzanine deck on the Finlaggan means that capacity will be reduced to Islay for the Feis this weekend - the seventh year in a row there have been problems at this vital time of year.  


“In addition the existence of CMal, the asset company, needs to be reviewed as it performs no useful purpose.   A move to a standardised set of vessels using standardised infrastructure is long overdue and CMAL is now an obstacle to that happening.”


The Clyde and Hebridean network does not include the Dunoon-Gourock route, where the tender contract ends next year.


Mr Russell said: “Finally eyes in Cowal will now turn to the Dunoon - Gourock tender which will be the next crucial ferry decision in Scotland.   There needs to be detailed discussion of what that route actually needs and, as a minimum, further investment in a higher standard of passenger service.


“I look forward to working with the company, as an MSP with a huge reliance on ferries, to ensure a constant improvement and today's award is therefore the start of a process, not the end of one.”


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