Council seeks a level playing field on transporting goods

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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called for the introduction of discount schemes for transporting goods to and from the islands, similar to those available on Northern Isles ferry services.

During recent engagement between elected members and the business community a recurring theme has been the high cost of transporting goods to the islands.

Islanders are often unable to access goods where additional charges are levied for transport beyond the mainland.

The cost of getting building materials to the islands significantly inflates the cost of building work.

Commercial vehicle fares levied for travel on ferries secured by the Scottish Government through the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service contract are passed on to island based customers.

Despite talk of a freight fares review that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had hoped would deliver a reduction in the cost of moving goods to and from the islands by CalMac’s services, no progress has been made.

The Comhairle has now been told this will be considered in a new Ferries Plan which will not be completed until 2022 at the earliest.

Island hauliers have outlined the challenges they face in comparison to the costs charged on other CalMac routes and on routes paid for by Scottish Government in the Northern Isles.

Unlike in the Western Isles where some key benefits like TRS have failed to be reinstated, hauliers taking goods to Orkney and Shetland on Serco Northlink enjoy a range of discounts including:

Advance Booking Discount up to 21%

Weekend Rate savings up to 43%

Empty Trailer discount up to 78%

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling on Government to deliver a level playing field for the Western Isles by extending the discounts offered on the Northern Isles Ferry Service contract to routes to and from the Western Isles.