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‘We know this increase will be challenging’: Ferry fares to jump by 8.7% next year

An MSP has said it "beggars belief" islanders will be asked to pay more despite the increasing unreliability of some ferry services.

Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.
Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

Ferry fares will rise by almost 9% from the end of March 2024.

Transport Scotland – which determines price levels for both CalMac and Northlink Ferries – announced today that the hike would align with the inflation rate recorded in May this year, which was 8.7%.

It has since dropped to 4.6%.

The announcement came after CalMac released information about summer timetables for 2024, saying they will be available to view on its website from 11 January with bookings opening on a phased approach between January 18 and February 12.

Pauline Blackshaw, director of strategy and change at CalMac, said: “I would like to thank our customers, communities and businesses for their patience regarding the summer timetables being released, and we apologise for the delay.

“We were unable to move forward with preparation to open bookings until Transport Scotland confirmed their decision on 2024 fare levels.”

‘CalMac ferry fares to rise with inflation’

Transport Scotland said the fares would increase across all routes.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have made significant investment in recent years to ensure that ferry fares are affordable, with fare freezes and the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff.

“We invested in freezing ferry fares in 2023/24, rather than apply the contractual 9.1% increase, in order to support island communities in Covid recovery and cost of living pressures.

“Over the period of the fares freezes, since 2019/20, the combined annual cost increase on Calmac and NorthLink has been £36 million.

“We know that this increase will be challenging for some as inflationary pressures continue on households, businesses and public services, but it comes against the backdrop of a real terms reduction in the total block grant from the UK Government.”

CalMac has said the South Uist to Malliag service will not be available until February 6. Picture by Sandy McCook.
Image: Sandy McCook/ DC Thomson.

‘Beggars belief’ islanders will be asked to pay more

Highlands MSP, Jamie Halcro Johnston said “it beggars belief” that islanders are being asked to pay more despite the increasing unreliability of some ferry services.

He said: “To see fares increase at such a level, is just another slap in the face to those communities that have already been so badly let down.”

CalMac has been plagued by reliability issues due to the advanced age of several vessels.

Some of the oldest vessels still do a lot of heavy lifting including the MV Isle of Arran, which is 40 years old and the MV Hebridean Isles, which is 38 years old.

There was anger in June as CalMac cancelled almost every ferry service to Lochboisdale. 

Meanwhile, the troubled MV Hebridean Isles car ferry arrived in Aberdeen for repairs in the latest chapter of a long-running saga delaying her return to service.

CalMac increases ferry maintenance schedule following delays last year

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