At the height of the pandemic with timetables frozen at a winter frequency the decision was rightly taken to freeze the planned 2020 commercial vehicle fares increase that would have added further hardship to islanders. At the same time the decision was taken by Calmac not to recruit staff to enable the planned summer 2020 timetable to operate. This trade off was accepted by everyone across the islands.
Last week Comhairle nan Eilean Siar learned that Calmac had contacted a number of island based hauliers to advise that Transport Scotland had approved a fares structure for Summer 2021 that would increase fares by 2.5% for HGVs and by 3.5% for vans and LGVs.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar consider it unacceptable to introduce above inflation fare increases before normal service is resumed and when timetables were kept at winter levels through 2020.
Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure Cllr Uisdean Robertson said: “The Highlands and Islands have been hardest hit economically as a result of the pandemic and nowhere have its effects been more felt than the Western Isles. Last year I wrote to the Islands Minister urging that Government act to reduce freight fares and setting out measures that could be brought in to achieve this. I hope the Minister can intervene now and stop this double whammy of rises on the haulage sector that will inevitably be passed to each and every islander.”
Transport Scotland said: “The planned fares increase in 2020 was delayed in order to avoid further disadvantaging island communities and key workers at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision was welcomed by stakeholders at the time. As the planned 2021 increase is relatively small, the decision has been taken to bring fares back to the level that was originally planned.
“This additional revenue is essential to ensuring that we are able to continue to deliver vital lifeline ferry services across Scotland, fund service improvements, as well as making continued investment in vessels and infrastructure.”