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Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Study into isles transport regime
Local businesses say transport costs are a major factor
The Scottish government is to examine bringing in a new tariff regime to cut ferry fares to the Western Isles.

The area has long campaigned for fare reductions to boost the economy.

Opponents of a Road Equivalent Tariff system said it might benefit travellers on shorter routes, but would penalise those on longer ferry journeys.

Meanwhile, a study carried out by Edinburgh's Napier University has claimed Scotland should be moving away from state-owned ferries.

The details of a study on RET, which charges people as if they were travelling the same distance by road, will be announced shortly by ministers.

Return fares for cars and lorries currently cost hundreds of pounds and many people in the Western Isles have been pressing for fare reductions to boost travel, business and tourism.

'Not the norm'

Fish farming giant Marine Harvest said transport costs were a major factor in stopping further investment by them in the islands.

When the Scottish Executive last examined ferry fares, under the then Labour transport minister Sarah Boyack, civil servants were expressly forbidden to consider RET because it would boost travel to such an extent that larger ferries and quays would have to be built.

The SNP had pledged to commission a study into RET, with a pilot in the Western Isles, in its election manifesto.

The EU-funded Napier study said fully state-owned shipping services, such as Calmac, were not the norm in the rest of Europe.

It said the Scottish government should allow private companies to provide shipping services, as is the case with other transport such as bus, rail and air.

Highland Council transport vice-chairman Roy Pedersen supported the findings, while a Calmac spokesman said the funding of ferries to the Clyde and Hebrides was a matter for ministers.

Call for review of Barra service
31 May 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Call to axe lifeline ferry fares
28 May 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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