Higher fares could be introduced on ferries at peak times

Ticket prices on some ferry services could be increased to help mitigate high demand at peak times, the Transport Secretary has said.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on Wednesday, Michael Matheson said peak-time pricing could be introduced to better manage capacity.

Increased tourist numbers during the summer period have been highlighted as a key concern for island residents, who have previously indicated difficulties in acquiring a ticket to travel during busy spells.

Scottish Conservative MSP for the North East Peter Chapman asked Mr Matheson what measures are being considered to help ease difficulties during periods of high demand.

Mr Chapman said: “We know that there’s been huge pressures on services, particularly during the summer with increased tourism.

“And that’s fine, but it has meant that sometimes locals have been unable to get a ticket to get off the island at short notice.

“There has been some talk about consideration of demand management measures to help alleviate pressure at peak times. Do you think that this might mean higher fares at peak times?”

Mr Matheson said increasing fares is a proposal included in the Scottish Ferries Plan, which sets out the future of services until 2022.

He said: “It was an option that was set out within the ferry plan looking at the possibility of trying to manage demand, particularly in routes that have got Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) in place and the demand that’s increased on these particular routes.

“What we’ve said is that that allows us to look at a number of different options. So for example, it could be the option of higher fares at peak times or it could be the option of incentives at off-peak times, where there’s capacity on the ferry.

“Is there a way in which we can try to shift some of that demand to utilise the resource much more effectively?

“So there’s a variety of different things we could look at there to try and help to deal with some of the additional demand.”

Mr Matheson added that any move to introduce peak-fare pricing would not necessarily apply to all routes and would be done in consultation with communities impacted by ferry services.

“One of the things I think is particularly important here is that it’s not something that may be necessary on every route,” he said.

“It may be just on some specific routes at specific times, there’s a need for some sort of demand management arrangements to be put in place.

“Anything around this will be looked at on that basis. But in doing that, I’m also very clear about the need to make sure that we engage with the local community, both at an individual level and also for local businesses.

“So if we are looking at doing that on any particular routes, there will be engagement within the local community around that.

“Any demand management arrangements that are put in place would be put in place with the agreement of the local community.”