Highlands & Islands

Labour, Greens and RMT call for CalMac to win contract

CalMac ferry Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Caledonian MacBrayne faces competition from Serco Caledonian Ferries Limited for the contract

A demonstration calling for Caledonian MacBrayne to continue operating the Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Network (CHFS) is to be held outside Holyrood.

State-owned CalMac and Serco Caledonian Ferries Limited are competing for a new £1bn contract to run the services.

The Scottish government is expected to confirm the winning bid later.

Scottish Labour, Scottish Greens and the RMT union are to due hold the demo from 11:00 to 13:00 outside the Scottish Parliament.

CalMac currently operates the routes between the west coast mainland and the Hebrides, and between islands.

The new contract covers an eight-year period with the routes involved including lifeline services for island communities.

'Fair and open'

The tendering process was the source of a dispute between unions and CalMac and the Scottish government last year.

Following the row, an independent panel set up to provide assurances about the process reported that it was being done in a "fair and open" manner.

CalMac and Serco Caledonian Ferries Limited submitted their final bids in March.

At the time, Martin Dorchester, managing director of CalMac Ferries Ltd, described his company's submission as an "outstanding piece of work".

Jonathan Riley, Serco bid director for CHFS, said his team had spent two years "eating, sleeping and breathing" a bid for the contract.

Image copyright David Dixon/Geograph
Image caption The services currently operated by Caledonian MacBrayne link the mainland with islands in the Inner and Outer Hebrides

CalMac operates 475 sailings per day in summer and about 350 per day in winter. The company carries more than 4.9 million passengers every year.

Ahead of the demonstration, Scottish Labour MSP David Stewart said: "CalMac ferries are more than just a mode of transport - they are lifeline links for families and communities."

John Finnie, Scottish Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: "Public services such as the ferry routes along the west coast must be kept in public hands.

"These are vital transport links for our island communities and are best served through a company whose focus is public service, not private profit."

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