Two firms invited to bid for ferry contract

CalMac's MV Bute seen leaving Rothesay pier.
CalMac's MV Bute seen leaving Rothesay pier.

Two operators have been formally invited to submit bids for the new contract to run Scotland’s west coast ferry services.

CalMac Ferries Limited and Serco Caledonian Ferries Limited have both passed the pre-qualification stage of the process and will be invited to submit tenders for the next CHFS contract, which will run from October 1, 2016 for up to eight years.

Both operators will today (Wednesday) be given access to copies of the draft Invitation To Tender (ITT) documentation, which will then formally be issued on July 10.

The invitation for both operators to submit a final tender is scheduled for December 2015, with a view to awarding the contract in May 2016.

Scotland’s transport and islands minister, Derek Mackay MSP, said: “This is another significant step forward for the tender process and moves us closer to awarding the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contract.

“The award of this contract will be an incredibly important moment for the island communities served by these lifeline ferry services. The Scottish Government will provide up to £1bn of funding to support the enhancement and development of these services, in addition to fares revenue.

“It will also ensure that Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) continues to be applied on CHFS routes, bringing significantly reduced fares for passengers, cars, small commercial vehicles and coaches and helping to support local communities and the tourist industry.

“These ferry services play a crucial role in enabling continued and sustainable economic growth for the islands. We are committed to delivering the very best deal for all of the communities of the Clyde and Hebrides.”

The new contract will be tendered as a single bundle, with no opportunity for companies to ‘cherry-pick’ busier routes at the expense of quieter ones.

Initial tender submissions will be made in August, with a period of “consideration, discussion and negotiation, and call for further tenders” between then and October and a deadline of January 2016 for the submission of final tenders.

The timeline for the process also allows a variable time for a further round, “according to requirements”, which may result in deadlines from December 2015 onwards being brought forward.