Caledonian MacBrayne carried 13,000 fewer passengers between Rothesay and Wemyss Bay last year than in 2012, according to newly-released statistics.
A total of 676,926 passengers were carried on the Rothesay route during the 12 months to December 2013, compared to 690,144 in 2012 - a fall of 13,218 people, or 1.92 per cent.
The figures mean the Rothesay service - historically regarded as the busiest in the CalMac network - was only the third busiest last year in terms of passenger numbers, behind Largs-Cumbrae (708,912) and Ardrossan-Brodick (706,094), both of which saw an increase on their 2012 figures.
By way of comparison, here’s a list of the number of passengers carried on the Rothesay route in the last decade:
2013 - 676,926
2012 - 690,144
2011 - 711,537
2010 - 735,308
2009 - 755,930
2008 - 740,969
2007 - 770,316
2006 - 759,680
2005 - 750,119
2004 - 764,159
The number of vehicles carried on the Rothesay route also fell, with cars down from 150,100 to 144,824 (a fall of 3.51%), coaches down from 872 to 844 (a fall of 3.21%) and commercial vehicles down from 13,343 to 12,330 (a fall of 7.59%).
In contrast there was an increase of 2.31 per cent in the number of passengers carried on the Rhubodach-Colintraive route, from 217,050 to 222,063, although the number of cars carried on the short Kyles crossing fell by 1.22 per cent to 75,507.
Coach carrying figures on the ‘back door to Bute’ route rose by 2.87 per cent to 2,869, though there was an 11.95 per cent drop in the number of commercial vehicles carried on the service, to 9,992.
Across the network, the company carried nearly 84,000 more passengers and almost 19,000 more cars in 2013 than the previous year - despite losing nearly 1,200 sailings to bad weather in the course of November and December.
Annual carryings for January to December 2013 show a total of 4,594,520 passengers and 1,064,324 cars travelled with CalMac on its 27 routes, with 18 of those routes showing an increase in traffic.
Brian Fulton, operations director of CalMac Ferries Ltd, said: “2013 was a year of very mixed fortunes with an incredibly busy and hot summer which boosted carryings, especially on the Clyde, but which was followed, at the end of the year, by some of the worst winter conditions ever seen.
“Without detailed analysis it is difficult to be precise about the reasons for fluctuations in traffic, and trends do vary across the network, but our experience is that any drop in commercial traffic is likely to be related to the completion of major infrastructure projects, so is not an area of major concern although clearly we would prefer that the ships were as busy as possible.”