Will Port Askaig become Islay's only Ferry Port?
The information below, in the quote, was sent to me by someone from Islay. It was first published in the West Highland Free Press and shows that there are indeed plans to radically reduce the number of ports in the west of Scotland. Will this mean that Kennacraig and Port Ellen are amongst the first to be sacrificed? With all the reconstruction works recently finished in Port Askaig it is clear that this is, or will become, Islay's major hub when the Scottish Ferries Review gets what they want. I know I would like to see some return from my investment if I were A&B council. Interesting to find out is if this one ferry port idea was the intention all along? Is there perhaps a hidden agenda? And why perform survey works in Port Ellen harbour? To keep everyone happy and reassured that Calmac will sail here in the future? Or am I overreacting a bit? CMAL already mentioned in their press release that the survey was performed for any potential infrastructure improvements works at Port Ellen and Kennacraig. What follows is the information as it was published in the Free Press: Continue reading.....
A major consultation on the future of Scotland's lifeline ferry services has recommended that each island should be restricted to one port, with the development of "hub" centres on the mainland such as in Oban. A draft copy of the Scottish Ferries Review, designed to develop a long-term strategy for services up to 2025, has been seen by the Free Press. Official public consultation on the document will not take place until next year. In a wide-ranging and comprehensive report, a team of consultants hired by the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise drew on a range of economic factors and practice elsewhere in Europe.
They propose that, along with the creation of "hub" ports, shorter crossings should be pursued to provide long-term savings to the public purse. They also suggest that it would be more effective to realign existing routes than seek the creation of new ones. The report said: "The concept of introducing a small number of "hubs" on the mainland was identified. For example, rather than ports being scattered along the north and west coasts, a limited number of larger ports which service a number of routes could be established. Oban could be considered as one example of this, serving routes to the Western Isles as well as some of the Inner Hebrides. "This would also allow these "hubs" to provide improved, dedicated and concentrated public transport links to the wider communities and to the other main towns/cities in Scotland. The potential of revising the routes to establish if any services could be changed or added that would call at more 'convenient' ports should be considered."
While the consultants do not give any specific examples, their recommendations could potentially have huge ramifications for Stornoway and Tarbert - two ports 30 miles apart with routes to the mainland - and the Southern Isles where there are three ports. The consultants' report also suggests that in order to improve lifeline services to some communities the focus should fall on improving air services, as that provides the best option.
I would like to point out the document that served as a basis for the Scottish Ferries Review consultation and particularly a highly interesting paragraph about Jura: "A shorter route from Jura to the mainland will be specifically considered as the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change committed the review to including this at his TICCC appearance on 3rd June 2008." I'm not sure exactly what they mean by this but perhaps they are referring to a new (ferry) route to (the north of) Jura from Kintyre which can benefit Islay as well?
Some other interesting information in the document was found on the last page where is said that in Autumn 2010 tendering will commence for new Clyde & Hebrides service(s). And there is probably a lot more information to read between the lines. Without a doubt this won't be the last scribbles about the new ferry and ferry route. To be continued.....
Update: There is an interesting article in the Stornoway Gazette about the same Ferries Review and the possible effects for the Western Isles.