A new £500,000 fund has been launched to improve accessibility on Scotland’s ferry network, Transport Minister Keith Brown announced today (Monday).
The Ferries Accessibility Fund will be open to bids from the public and private sector, and aims to make improvements to existing vessels and harbours that go beyond regulatory standards set for accessibility.
Awards will be made on a match-funding basis, which means that operators bidding for money will be expected to match the contribution from the fund themselves.
The fund will initially be open to applications until the end of November 2014, with the successful applicants being announced in January 2015. Further calls will be issued in 2015.
Mr Brown said: “I’m delighted to launch the Ferries Accessibility Fund and encourage potential bidders to come forward with their proposals.
“Scotland’s ferry services should be open and accessible to everyone, and we want ferry and harbour operators to provide the best passenger experience possible.
“The operators already have strict standards to meet when it comes to accessibility, but this announcement can help them to go further.
“The funding could help a wide range of proposals, from adapting existing ships and harbours to make it easier and safer for people with reduced mobility to embark and disembark, to giving staff training in disability awareness and customer service.
“By making awards on a match-funding basis, it means up to £1million could be spent on accessibility improvements across the ferry network.
“Ultimately, I want this funding to help make improvements that address the needs of passengers and encourage more people to use Scotland’s ferry services.”
Anne Maclean, convenor of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) said: “The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland welcomes the Ferries Accessibility Fund as an encouraging initiative to go beyond the requirements of legislation and to include disabled people in pointing out and making sometimes small changes which can make the Ferry journey much more accessible, comfortable and enjoyable for the disabled traveller.”
The financial administration of the Ferries Accessibility Fund will be carried out by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) to ensure that it is administered competently, transparently and in line with Government finance rules.
The Fund Management Group that will select the successful applicants will be made up of representatives from Transport Scotland and MACS.
The Fund is open to bids from any ferry or harbour operator providing a service covered by the Scottish Ferries Plan, published in December 2012. This includes local authority and private sector port and ferry services.