RET ferry fares scheme extended to inter-island routes
The Scottish government has said it intends to extend a scheme designed to bring down the cost of ferry travel.
The road equivalent tariff (RET) is to become a permanent feature on Western Isles, Coll and Tiree services, following a pilot scheme.
It is also to be rolled it out to Sounds of Barra and Harris routes.
RET is also to be extended to cover Colonsay, Islay and Gigha ferries from October 2012 and a pilot scheme for Arran is to start from October 2014.
The scheme sets ferry fares to what it would cost to travel the same distance by road.
Western Isles' local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said it had campaigned for RET to be made permanent and also for it to apply to services crossing the Sounds of Barra and Harris.
A pilot project has been running in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree since October 2008 and is due to end in spring 2012.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said the pilot had boosted tourism and local economies.
He said: "Tourism is just one benefit the RET pilot has brought our thriving island communities and we expect this continuation to bring further positive results to the additional routes now being included."
The government said it intended to continue RET as a permanent feature on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree for passengers and cars, including small commercial vehicles and coaches.
It is to replace RET for larger commercial vehicles on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree, with an enhanced pre-RET discount scheme.
The scheme is also to be extended to services that cross the Sounds of Barra and Harris and, from next October, will apply to passengers, cars, small commercial vehicles and coaches on services to Colonsay, Islay and Gigha.
A pilot covering passengers, cars, small commercial vehicles and coaches is start for Arran from October 2014.
The government said it was looking at rolling out RET to other west coast and Clyde islands at a future date.
Comhairle leader Angus Campbell said the local authority had lobbied for RET to be made permanent and also for it to be extended to inter-island routes.
He said: "I am delighted that lobbying has now paid off.
"The comhairle has supported an inter-island commercial traffic discount scheme to demonstrate that it was viable and we will now make the case that the proposed 25% discount for commercial traffic be extended to cover the inter-island routes."
Transport committee chairman Donald Manford added: "This is excellent news and I am delighted that the Scottish government is now building on the undoubted success of the pilot scheme."
Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil and MSP Alasdair Allan have also welcomed the announcement.