We’ve made ‘compelling case’ for £1bn contract, says CalMac boss

Caledonian MacBrayne's Managing Director, Martin Dorchester.
Caledonian MacBrayne's Managing Director, Martin Dorchester.

The managing director of CalMac Ferries Ltd says he believes the firm has submitted an “outstanding” bid to run services in the Clyde and Hebrides for the next eight years.

Martin Dorchester was speaking at an event on Monday to mark the submission of the company’s final bid for the £1 billion Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) contract.

State-owned CFL is competing against private sector firm Serco for the right to run subsidised services under the Caledonian MacBrayne brand from October 1 this year.

Scottish Government ministers are expected to choose the winner by the end of May - and Mr Dorchester says he believes CFL’s bid will make it “a clear winner”.

“I believe the bid we submitted last week is an outstanding piece of work,” he said, “and makes a compelling case for CalMac to win this hugely important contract.

“I’m confident we will be the clear winner when a decision is reached in May and, if so, I’m determined that we’ll deliver our best service levels yet.

“We’re very proud of CalMac’s rich heritage, but I’m even prouder of the internationally-recognised, customer-focused, ambitious, multi-award winning company we’ve become.

“Across the network our staff and crews work tirelessly to provide an efficient, reliable, and modern service to the individuals and communities who depend upon us every day.

“CalMac will always put the lifeline ferry services and the needs of the remote communities we serve above any commercial concerns.”

The Scottish Government says it is required by EU law to put the Clyde and Hebrides ferry network out to competitive tender - a path first trodden by the Labour-Liberal Democrat administration in the Scottish Parliament back in 2004.

Routes, timetables and fares will continue to be set by the government, while the ferries themselves will continue to be owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, and will use the famous Caledonian MacBrayne branding, regardless of which company wins the contract.

“Operating on the west coast is our principal reason to exist,” Mr Dorchester continued.

“Nobody knows these routes better than us and providing 130,000 sailings a year in some of the most challenging waters in Europe is impressive by any standards.

“I believe that our vast knowledge and experience of these routes makes CalMac the best qualified and the only credible operator of them now and in the future.”

Both the tendering process and the possibility of a Serco victory have been strongly opposed by the RMT union, which commissioned a report - published last week - recommending that the network should remain in the hands of CFL.

The report was written by Jeanette Findlay, a senior economics lecturer at Glasgow University.