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CalMac Ferries unveils plans for “New Era” in West Coast ferry services

CalMac Ferries unveils plans for “New Era” in West Coast ferry services
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Award-winning ferry operator CalMac Ferries Ltd has gone public for the first time with its ambitious plans to transform west coast ferry services in a new contract beginning on 1 October for up to eight years.

The company, which was announced as the successful bidder for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services tender in May, signed the contract with Transport Scotland on August 22 following the finalisation of legal agreements.

Scottish Ministers and Transport Scotland place great value on the contribution that the Clyde and Hebrides Service can make to the social, cultural and economic vitality of Scotland, and in particular in the Island and Coastal communities.

Managing Director, Martin Dorchester, said that CalMac’s winning bid was rooted in ambitious plans to drive improvements which will transform the experience of ferry travellers, exemplify customer focus, and show the company’s determination to make a positive difference to the communities.

He said: “The new contract marks the start of a new era in ferry services on the west coast which we are delighted to be introducing. The last nine years have seen significant improvements to ferry services and we look forward to building on this work by taking our services, and the benefits they offer to our customers and the communities we serve, up to a new level.”

“Our bid was based on key themes including retaining safety at the heart of our operation, a sustainable long term reduction in subsidy through improving operational efficiency and revenue growth, and enhancing our service to offer even higher levels of customer satisfaction and community engagement”.

“We recognise the importance of ferry services in developing sustainable communities, driving economic growth and enabling island and rural companies to do business with the rest of the world. We also have an enduring commitment to improving environmental sustainability and are a socially responsible employer which values and invests in our staff. We are proud to be a Living wage employer and have signed up to the Scottish Governments Business pledge”.

The planned innovations, most of which will be put in place in the first two years of the contract, include: 

  • Maximise opportunities for local companies, supported businesses (where 30% of staff are disabled or disadvantaged) and social enterprises, to tender for supply contracts. CalMac has set a target of sourcing 80% of fresh produce from within its network area. 
  • Appoint a Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement and create a Communities Board to involve communities in strategic matters that affect them. 
  • An innovative approach to the introduction of smart and integrated ticketing offering multi-modal ticketing to provide improved choice and convenience for passengers
  • Continued investment in Officer Cadets and rating apprenticeships and partnering with local maritime training organisations such as University of the Highlands and Islands and City of Glasgow College to further to develop our qualified and skilled workforce, and develop a strong maritime training economy
  • Work in partnership with shipyards to plan and schedule long-term maintenance activities to minimise reactive maintenance, improving vessel reliability for customers
  • Investing £6m in on-board and port and passenger area improvements including consistent signage, a standard look and feel to customer sitting and waiting areas, upgraded restaurant counters and retail outlets, piloting an ‘at seat’ drinks trolley service, and digital information screens, all aimed at improving customer accessibility and experience.
  • Daily demand forecasting combined with the introduction of variable terms and conditions to discourage late cancelations and no shows. This will lead to improved accessibility for customers, better capacity utilisation and greater certainty of travel. 
  • Appoint a Transport Integration Manage to work with other providers on timetable planning, disruption management, and the displaying of digital travel information at ports and vessels to improve public transport connectivity and quality of customer information.
  • Maintaining membership of Marine Scotland, along with support for the ‘blue economy.’ This includes helping to monitor marine animals and working with marine conservation bodies, all of which supports economic sustainability.

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