“Disappointment” has been expressed by the CalMac community board at a proposal to increase fares on some routes.
The plan is an attempt to manage capacity issues on west coast and island ferries.
The huge success of Road Equivalent Tariff has led to increased economic activity and the creation of jobs, but has also started to address the cost inequalities for ordinary people who live on islands, the board believes.
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Its members think it is surprising to risk damaging that success by increasing prices rather than addressing the core issue of investment in fleet capacity and resilience.
The community board has offered to work with Transport Scotland, CalMac and CMAL, not only to explore ways of dealing fairly with the immediate challenges but also to help develop a new long-term ambitious Ferries Plan to help grow the islands and communities to the benefit of all.
Angus Campbell, chairman of the community board said: “The board is therefore disappointed that a proposal has been made that may have an adverse effect on the communities that are being served by CalMac without any consultation with those communities. The board recognises that there is a need for urgent action to address the capacity constraints on the ferry network but does not believe that this proposal is an acceptable solution.”
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said increasing fares is a proposal included in the Scottish Ferries Plan, which sets out the future of services until 2022.
He said: “It was an option that was set out within the ferry plan looking at the possibility of trying to manage demand, particularly in routes that have got RET in place and the demand that’s increased on these particular routes.
“What we’ve said is that that allows us to look at a number of different options. So for example, it could be the option of higher fares at peak times or it could be the option of incentives at off-peak times, where there’s capacity on the ferry.
“Is there a way in which we can try to shift some of that demand to utilise the resource much more effectively?
“So there’s a variety of different things we could look at there to try and help to deal with some of the additional demand.”
Mr Matheson added that any move to introduce peak-fare pricing would not necessarily apply to all routes and would be done in consultation with communities impacted by ferry services.