£27 million for piers and ferries

Around £27million has been earmarked for investment into ferries, ports and harbour structures throughout the Western Isles.

Castlebay residents could welcome a new ferry to the route in less than ten years time; while the Lochboisdale link-span is proposed to undergo an upgrade.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) – the organisation which owns the ferries, ports, harbours and infrastructure necessary for vital West coast and Clyde Estuary ferry services – recently unveiled its Strategic Plan 2014-2024.

Coming off the back of the Scottish Ferries Plan published in December 2013, the 10 year plan takes into account required upgrades contained within the government document.

As a CMAL spokesperson said: “CMAL’s ten year corporate strategy is in place to ensure that we deliver our mission to provide, safeguard and develop the ferries and harbours under our control.

“We will continue to work closely with Scottish Ministers to ensure funds are in place to carry out all of the improvements identified in the Scottish Ferries Plan.”

The CMAL report delivers an estimated total investment of well over £300million. This will be required to replace ageing ships in the fleet; alongside funds to improve harbour infrastructures and design and build new small and medium size vessels.

For the Western Isles this will mean that £13million has been earmarked for investment in Tarbert (Harris); there is a £9.3 million planned investment for Lochboisdale, along with a £5million investment for Castlebay harbour.

The funds are primarily set aside for infrastructure works at Tarbert and Lochboisdale piers; and the plan marks ‘replacement vessel’ for Castlebay works in 2020-21.

“The £13million investment identified for Tarbert (2018/2019), the £9.3million for Lochboisdale and the £5million for Castlebay in CMAL’s Ten Year Strategic Plan are currently earmarked for pier infrastructure works, including upgrades to the link span and buildings at Lochboisdale,” said CMAL’s spokesperson.

“All investments in the fleet and harbour works will be subject to ongoing review and revision according to operational needs and discussions with the operator and Transport Scotland.”

And the spokesperson expanded: “The works at Tarbert (Harris), Castlebay and Lochboisale are all indicative figures of future spend.

“Essentially there is an allowance for any necessary works to accommodate potential new vessels, as well as to upgrade and/or replace various sections of the facilities as they reach the end of their serviceable life.”

The spokesperson added: “As the works are quite a few years away, they exact nature and extent of the works, and therefore the costs, are yet to be fully determined.”