The UK’s biggest ferry company is to seek millions of pounds from the Scottish Government because of the huge loss of passengers and traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic.
State-owned Caledonian MacBrayne is carrying just 5% of normal traffic as it enters what is normally its busiest period.
David MacBrayne Ltd, which operates CalMac Ferries, received £139m in subsidy from the Scottish Government during the last financial year – compared to nearly £141m in 2018.
But CalMac had just 163 people travelling on Easter Sunday compared to 21,570 last year – a 99.2% drop in numbers.
It is only carrying lifeline supplies and essential workers needed to keep island economies running and communities safe.
Government advice not to travel unnecessarily spurred CalMac to implement an ‘essential travel only’ policy late in March.
But the lockdown is set to continue into Cal Mac’s most lucrative period, costing it substantial revenue.
CalMac’s Managing Director, Robbie Drummond, confirmed that it had been in talks with the Scottish Government.
He said:”These are unprecedented times for CalMac where we are operating an essential lifeline service with passenger figures down around 95%.
“We have been in constant contact with Transport Scotland around our contract which has seen timetable reductions and impact on revenue. We are currently discussing the contractual implications and solutions to this drop in revenue with Transport Scotland.
“Our staff continue to provide frontline lifeline support to island communities under the most difficult of circumstances.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said:“The contract is clear in that Scottish Ministers may, from time to time, issue a variation notice to the operator in respect of any part of the services.
“The contract allows Scottish Ministers to protect the operator from financial loss where appropriate as a result of reduction in fare box revenue given the anticipated drop in passenger numbers.
“Transport Scotland officials will maintain regular dialogue with CalMac Ferries to monitor the impact Covid-19 restrictions will have on the public contract for Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Services during 2020.”