Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) has thanked the communities it visited as part of its preparations to bid for the next Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) contract, which comes into force next autumn.
Senior CalMac executives and non-executive directors met several hundred people at 24 separate meetings during the last month, from Campbeltown and Arran to Stornoway and Ullapool.
CalMac, which has operated the CHFS contract since 2007, will use the feedback received from those communities to help shape its bid to run the service from next October. The current contract expires on 30th September 2016 and the process to select the operator of the next contract – for a period of up to eight years – is now underway.
CalMac is now encouraging anyone who was unable to attend the meetings to make sure their voices are heard by filling in a feedback form that has been made available on the company’s website (https://www.calmac.co.uk/community-engagement-meetings/feedback).
Robbie Drummond, Group Financial Director and director of the company’s bid team, said: “CalMac’s roots in island and west coast communities are deep and enduring and it is very important to us that the bid we submit has taken account of the views of the communities which will use the ferry services, so we are very appreciative of the time taken by people across our network to attend these meetings and share their aspirations with us.
“Some of the things that people are seeking, such as major timetable changes or new ships, are not within our gift as these will be dictated by Transport Scotland in the Invitation to Tender (ITT), but it is nonetheless helpful for us to get as complete a picture of the views of ferry users as possible.”
CalMac is responsible for operating and marketing the CHFS routes under the terms and specifications set by Transport Scotland, a division of the Scottish Government. That contract sets out the parameters within which the service must be delivered, dictating everything from the fares charged, timetables, and routes, to the ports and vessels that must be used on those routes. The vessel fleet is owned by a separate organisation, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), which is also responsible for the design and procurement of new ships. CMAL also owns approximately half of the 50 ports and harbours on the CHFS routes and is responsible for their repair and maintenance, although day to day port management is provided by CalMac.
Mr Drummond continued: “We have tried to cover as many areas and communities as possible in the time available and hope that those we were unable to visit during the past month will appreciate the challenge we faced in doing so. We haven’t ruled out further meetings at a later stage in the tender process, but in the meantime would encourage as many people as possible to fill in an on-line feedback form if they haven’t already done so. We are grateful to those who have submitted forms on the day or on-line, and if they have had any further thoughts since then, they should feel free to submit more.”
Mr Drummond said the information provided to date was very informative and helpful, but as it would inform part of the bid, it would not be shared more widely at this stage. He said, however, that at a suitable point it was CalMac’s intention is to provide feedback to the communities on how their ideas had been included in the bid.