CalMac takes over running of Kerrera ferry
One of Scotland's shortest ferry services, which links the small Argyll island of Kerrera to the mainland south of Oban, will be operated by award-winning ferry operator CalMac Ferries Ltd from July 1, 2017.
The Transport Scotland contract to provide the mostly passenger-only service on the island, which is home to just over 50 people, has been integrated into the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contract (CHFS) awarded to CalMac in 2016.
The new service will be largely unchanged from the existing operation with fares and timetables set by Transport Scotland. It will however now be formally recognised as a CalMac route bringing total routes operated to 48 and fleet to 33 vessels. CalMac currently operates more than 136,000 sailings a year across the west coast of Scotland and this route will add around 2,600 sailings per year to that total.
The current service has been operated for 22 years by Kerrera Ferry Ltd, run by local man Duncan MacEachen, who, along with three crewmates, will now become CalMac employees.
Mr MacEachen is retaining ownership of the 'Gylen Lady' so a new vessel has been ordered by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) and is currently under construction in Shetland.
She is due to be delivered later this Summer so in the meantime the 'Gylen Lady' will continue to ply the 500 metre crossing.
As with the islands of Iona and the Small Isles; at the request of local residents, vehicles can only be carried by prior arrangement.
In 2016, CMAL spent £1.7m improving the ferry berthing facilities at Kerrera. It included an extension of the slipways at Kerrera and Gallanach and construction of a new breakwater to improve the resilience of the ferry service in poor weather and remove the previous restrictions on freight and deliveries caused by low tides.
Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf said:
'I was delighted to visit the residents of Kerrera last year and bringing the ferry route under the umbrella of CalMac is the next step in securing the future of the service, which will be welcomed by island residents and staff.
'The Scottish Government has financially supported the service since 2013 and also invested in significantly upgrading the berthing facilities on both sides of the crossing. With a new vessel due to be delivered later this summer, we remain committed to ensuring this important link remains resilient and reliable.
'I wish everyone involved every success and look forward to visiting the crossing to see the new ferry in action.'
Kerrera resident and chair of the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust Martin Shields said: 'The transfer of the ferry marks an important milestone in the ongoing development of Kerrera and helps to secure the lifeline service for generations to come. We look forward to working with both CalMac and Transport Scotland to ensure the community can continue to thrive. We're also extremely pleased that a new and improved vessel including much needed passenger coverage will service the route.'
CalMac's Head of Service Delivery North, Robert Morrison, said: 'The company already has a link with the island as it is the site of a monument to David Hutcheson, who started a steamer company in 1851 which would become Caledonian MacBrayne, so we are delighted to be taking this service on and adding it to our routes. It is our first new route since the Mallaig-Lochboisdale and Ardrossan-Campbeltown services in 2013, and we are looking forward to working with the local community and playing a part in the economic development and growth of the island.'
Kevin Hobbs, Managing Director of CMAL, said: 'Work on the new vessel is underway and we look forward to bringing her to Kerrera later this year.'
Notes to Editors
- Kerrera covers an area of 4.7 sq miles and the north end of the island is a familiar sight from Oban. It is home to two communities split between the north and south with no road to connect them. The north end is home to Oban Marina which operates a small passenger ferry for its customers. A notable feature in the south of the island is the ruined Gylen Castle, built in 1582 by the Clan MacDougall.
- Further information about CalMac is available at www.calmac.co.uk
- Caledonian MacBrayne and CalMac are trading names of CalMac Ferries Ltd (CFL). Caledonian MacBrayne , CalMac and the lion rampant device are registered trademarks of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL)and are used under licence by CalMac Ferries Ltd.