Caledonian MacBrayne has won the contract to continue operating west coast ferry services.
Publicly-owned CalMac Ferries Limited was announced as the preferred tenderer for the next contract to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today (Thursday).
CalMac had been bidding against private service giant Serco to win the contract.
Serco said today that their bid had been deemed “non-compliant” by Transport Scotland.
CalMac’s bid makes almost 350 commitments to improve the service – including a £6 million investment in vessel and port improvements and the introduction of smart and integrated ticketing systems on key routes.
The company aim to increase passenger and vehicle traffic by 10 per cent and commercial traffic by 12 per cent over the course of the contract.
CalMac has also pledged to create more apprenticeships and to introduce a Communities Board to better involve local areas in decisions
The CalMac pension scheme and a policy of no compulsory redundancies will remain in place.
The tender price for the next contract is around £900 million for eight years from the 1st October 2016.
The decision to award the contract to CalMac was widely praised on Social Media, but some still question whether the tender process was required at all.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “CalMac have a long and proud tradition of running the Clyde and Hebrides routes, and the company is woven into the fabric of the communities they serve.
“Their tender offers a good deal for those communities served by these vital transport links and ensures that we can maximise the opportunities to support and nurture our island economies.”
Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac, said: “We are proud to be given the opportunity to transform ferry passengers’ experience across the west coast of Scotland and to work closely with our partners to connect towns, cities and communities like never before.
“Our successful bid demonstrates our ability to provide innovative service improvements and value for money for customers. Drawing on our experience in the UK ferry market where we have won a number of awards, our bid delivers industry-leading customer care and high standards of reliability.
He added: “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many people across our network and further afield for their support during this testing time for everyone associated with CalMac and especially our staff ashore and at sea, whose efforts over the last nine years have been acknowledged and rewarded with this contract.
“Now the hard work begins in delivering this contract during challenging economic times.”
In a statement on their website Serco said their bid had been deemed “non compliant” because they had “sought certain changes to commercial terms aimed at striking a balance between the risks and rewards involved.”
Kevin Craven, Chief Executive of Serco’s UK Central Government Division, said: “We are obviously disappointed by this decision as we believe that we could have made significant improvements to the quality and reliability of these services to the benefit of the communities across the Western Isles. However, the commitments to service and efficiency improvements promised by CalMac Ferries Limited, who have been selected as preferred bidder to continue running CHFS, underline the benefits of testing services provided by the public sector through competitive tender processes.”