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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-36024

Date lodged: 11 March 2021

Question

To ask the Scottish Government when the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) Evaluation Report will be published, and how Scottish Ministers plan to utilise the findings of the Evaluation to inform the Scottish Government’s future ferry fares policy.

Current status: Answered by Paul Wheelhouse on 15 March 2021


Answer

The Ferries Plan 2013-2022, published in 2012, committed to rolling out RET on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network within the term of that Parliament.

Reports evaluating the impact of RET for each of the pilots from 2008 to 2014 are available on the Transport Scotland website, and today I confirm the publication of the latest evaluation report in this series, which Transport Scotland commissioned Peter Brett Associates LLP, now part of Stantec, and ProVersa Ltd, to provide, with a focus on the ‘2015 routes’ where RET was implemented.

RET has delivered significant ferry fare reductions to the Clyde and Hebrides, leading to a welcome boost in carryings which, in turn, supports our island and remote communities. Its success can be measured in terms of how RET has contributed towards its original investment objectives which were to:

• increase demand for ferry services by making ferry travel more affordable and

accessible;

• increase tourism and supporting existing tourism markets; and

• enhance local economies and the wider national economy.

The Evaluation reports on a broad consensus that RET has been a good thing for island communities, providing a strong fit with the emerging policy context, and in particular objectives related to economic development, social inclusion and inclusive growth.

This report will inform the upcoming fares review being conducted as part of the forthcoming Islands Connectivity Plan (ICP) that will be set in the context of the National Transport Strategy 2 and the National Islands Plan.

When we published the current Ferries Plan, which the Islands Connectivity Plan will replace, we were clear that RET fares were not a panacea. This Evaluation Report sets in context some of the negative consequences in some communities of cheaper travel and resulting impacts on ferry services and infrastructure. This Report will provide an invaluable resource as we look to the future of ferry services, and to ensure that any decisions taken on this aspect of policy have a firm evidence base.

Finally, Ministers remain committed to reducing ferry fares on services to the Northern Isles. In this regard, work has resumed on consideration of potential mechanisms for reducing ferry fares on services across the Pentland Firth. The impacts of Brexit, and in particular the ongoing consultation by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on subsidy control mechanisms that replace State Aid regulations, post-Brexit, have further complicated this work and our own policy development on this issue is at an early stage as a consequence.