Posted by: tireecottage | December 3, 2011

RET Ferry fare scheme extends

Flag Map of ScotlandThe Scottish government is to extend the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme, which aims to reduce the cost of ferry tickets to the equivalent of travelling the same distance on the road. The programme will become permanent on Western Isles and Coll and Tiree ferry services. Plans have also been announced by Transport Scotland of a roll out of the scheme to the Sounds of Barra and Harris services in an attempt to improve connections. From October 2012, the RET will be expanded to Gigha, Colonsay and Islay ferries, while a pilot scheme is due to start in 2014 in Arran.

Western Isles journeys have been boosted by the pilot scheme by almost one-third, benefiting tourism and local businesses. Minister for Housing and Transport Keith Brown says that the pilot has had a positive impact since its introduction in October 2008, boosting local tourist trade and local economies. They want that same positive impact to continue, which is why they are expanding the scheme to include new ferry routes. Tourism is only one of the benefits resulting from the pilot, and they expect it to bring more positive results to the additional routes being included.

Highlands and Islands MSP Mike MacKenzie welcomed the news, saying that the announcement is fantastic, as the move will further boost local businesses and tourism. The cheaper fares have largely boosted travel, tourism and business in the Western Isles. Anyone using a ferry to the isles or running a tourist business knows the difference lower fares make. Passenger numbers have increased 20%, room occupancy in the Western Isles is up 24% and car journeys have risen 31%, he noted.

Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell said that the Comhairle has lobbied for the RET to become permanent and be expanded to the inter-island routes. He is delighted that this has paid off. They supported a discount scheme to demonstrate its viability, and they will make the case that the proposed 25% reduction in fares be extended to the new routes.

Also welcoming the decision was Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, saying that the commitment to expand the RET to the Sounds of Barra and Harris is well beyond the party’s 2011 manifesto commitments, and he believes it will be a real benefit to both islanders and tourists. The scheme has proved itself since being introduced in 2008, and it will make life easier for travellers and transport between the islands stronger. Allan added that, considering the large cuts that the British government has made to Scotland’s budget for the next three years, the renewal and expansion of the RET is a serious commitment to the islands and their economies.

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