Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lifeline ferry fares set to rise

CalMac vessel
The fare increases will affect Caledonian MacBrayne saillings

Fares on Scotland's lifeline ferry services are set to increase, while cost-cutting plans on other sailings have been outlined by ministers.

Ticket prices on Clyde and Hebridean routes will increase by 2%, affecting Caledonian MacBrayne sailings.

And NorthLink sailings from Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland will run on half power, saving fuel while lengthening journey times.

Ministers said the decision was taken amid the tough economic outlook.

The rise in Clyde and Hebridean fares is in addition to the published fares increase of 2.2%, with the new charges being applied to bookings from the beginning of the summer season on 26 March.

'Efficient services'

The Scottish government said it was providing record levels of funding to lifeline ferry services - £105m in the next financial year, compared to £91.4m in 2006-07.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said the decision to introduce the 2% rise, which will not affect multi-journey tickets used by many islanders, was taken amid the tough economic climate.

"The Scottish government is responding positively to the very real challenges on public spending which are facing us," he said.

"We are taking decisions which will allow us to maintain the efficient ferry services which the public currently enjoy."

As well as price changes on state-owned CalMac services, ferries on NorthLink sailings from Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland will run on two engines instead of four, while further moves to save cash are in the pipeline.

Gordon Ross, managing director of private operator Western Ferries, which competes with CalMac on the Gourock-Dunoon route, said: "If this announcement is indicative of the future, island communities can look forward to higher fare increases and cuts to service levels.

"At the same time the Scottish government is making these changes, it continues to fund the current Gourock to Dunoon service.

"If the service was provided by a passenger-only vessel to satisfy the passenger-only requirement, the taxpayer could be saved approximately £1.5m a year, which could then be used to offset these additional fare increases."

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