Council leader disappointed over Road Equivalent Tariff timescales

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Published Date: 

30 Nov 2011 - 16:54

The leader of Argyll and Bute Council has welcomed the principle of an extension to the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme.


However, Councillor Dick Walsh expressed his disappointment that the introduction of some of the routes affecting Argyll and Bute islands was still some way off.


The RET scheme involves setting ferry fares on the basis of the cost of travelling an equivalent distance by road.


Earlier this week, Transport Scotland announced that the scheme – which had previously covered only part of the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree – would be rolled out on a phased basis.


First to begin a new pilot will be Colonsay, Gigha and Islay, although RET will not start there until after the 2012 summer season in October 2012. In the case of the two Arran routes (Brodick and Claonaig) RET will not kick in until after the 2014 summer season in October 2014, three years from now.


The others – including the two Bute routes, Iona, Lismore and three Mull routes – will be rolled out ‘within the terms of this Parliament’. The Tarbert-Portavadie route is not mentioned at all in Transport Scotland’s plans.


Councillor Walsh said: “We are pleased that a wider range of island communities are going to benefit from RET, because it is evident from the first pilot that the scheme has an early beneficial effect on island communities and economies.


“Residents of and visitors to the islands which will start to reap those benefits towards the end of next year will be very much looking forward to it, even though the timescale means the scheme will unfortunately not be able to impact the approaching vital summer tourist season.


“It is unfortunate, though, that the roll-out is going to take place over a matter of years rather than months. Given its positive impact, we would have hoped that all our island communities would have been included sooner rather than later.


“We will be liaising with Transport Scotland to try to confirm the dates for the other services to be rolled out and for consideration of support to other ferry routes, such as mainland to mainland routes.”


A recent report into RET showed that passenger numbers had risen by 20% and car carryings by 31% on ferries in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree since the scheme was introduced.


Chair of the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HiTRANS) and Argyll and Bute’s spokesperson for transport and infrastructure, Councillor Duncan MacIntyre, welcomed the Government’s announcement.


“The RET pilot scheme has been a real success. The pilot project has shown that the right fare levels will grow traffic to and from our islands and has brought real economic benefit to those communities within the scheme,” he said.


“HiTRANS welcomes the commitment to continue with RET fares on these routes and to extend RET fares to other parts of the Scottish ferries network. We now look forward to working with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland on the acceleration of the time scale for expansion of the scheme to other Scottish ferry routes as a matter of urgency.”


Read a full copy of the report into RET.


Transport Scotland is the Scottish Government’s national transport agency.