The Scottish Government is looking for an operator to provide Clyde and Hebrides ferry services from 1 October 2016, but Transport minister Derek McKay insists there will be no unbundling of any of the more than 25 routes covered by the present contract held by Caledonian MacBrayne.

Mr McKay explained: ‘We are looking to award a contract that runs for up to eight years. This will make it attractive to potential bidders by giving an opportunity to deliver service improvements and efficiencies. The Ferries Plan, published in December 2012, will form the basis of the contract and I reiterate that the tender will be a single contract.’

In addition to fare revenues, Scotland will provide up to £1 billion of funding to support enhancement of and development of the lifeline services during the course of the new contract, while current investment includes soon-to-debut Ullapool-Stornoway route ferry Loch Seaforth.

CalMac have a fleet of 30 vessels serving eight mainly short routes on the Firth of Clyde and 18 Western Isles services, ranging from the ten-minute crossing between Fionnphort, Mull and Iona, to sailings from Oban to Lochboisdale via Castlebay taking six hours 40 minutes.

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