Local News

Share Your Views on Ferries as ‘Project Neptune’ Comes to Orkney

The public will have a chance to contribute their views to ‘Project Neptune’ at a meeting on Wednesday 3rd of May : St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall from 4pm-5pm; Stromness Community Centre, Church Road, Stromness from 7pm-8pm.

What is Project Neptune?

Click on this link to access Strategic framework of options for the CHFS network – Project Neptune, published 8th September 2022.

Project Neptune concerns any future reform which may take place of Governance structures in relation to the delivery of ferry services on the Clyde and Hebrides network.

Angus Campbell, Chair of the Ferries Communities board, is leading the Scottish Government’s community consultation work on Project Neptune’s next steps.

  • Our review’s purpose is to help to identify the preferred corporate and governance structures for the delivery of ferry services on Scottish Ministers’ behalf.
  • The strategic framework of options provides Ministers with our views on what could be done to restructure the CHFS network, rather than on what should be done.
  • Any structure proposed for delivering ferry services on behalf of the Scottish Ministers should enhance passenger experience, support local communities and be accountable, transparent and capable of achieving Best Value
flow chart of Project Neptune
Transport Scotland

The report explores ferry provision in other nations in order to draw some comparisons to explore how Scotland’s ferry services could be administered in the future. This obviously is of great importance to Orkney.

Prior to engaging with the public Angus Campbell will meet with Orkney’s local Councillors, external transport forum stakeholders, and Stromness Community Council.

Transport Scotland is considering a number of options in the report ‘Project Neptune’ for the delivery of services on the CHFS network but of course there are wider implications of this – 1. we pay for these services through our taxes, 2. this model could be extended to cover the Northern Isles.

When the contract terminates in September 2024, whether that be a Direct Award to the existing operator, implementing a management contract or extending the length of the contract. Each of these proposed changes could deliver on a range of objectives:

  • A Direct Award in the short-term could enable Ministers to focus on future strategy, rather than resource being used to run a competitive procurement process.
  • A management contract could remove the element of revenue risk from the contract and potentially increase competition.
  • Extending the contract length beyond eight years could encourage longer term strategic thinking from the operator, giving them stability over a longer period and enabling them to focus on the future.

There is also the possibility that more control is given to local authorities over the running of ferry services. This would be ‘Orkney Ferries’ with extra oomph.

Powers would be “devolved to local authorities who would procure and manage ferry services in place of TS. Routes within the CHFS contract would be ‘unbundled’ and repackaged according to each local authority area. Local authorities would procure ferry services as they see fit for the local area, which could lead to more targeted decision-making. The SG would be responsible for setting the overall strategic direction for the sector.”

This is not only about running the ferry service but includes the procurement of vessels and routes.

“The local authorities would have the ability to alter the key commercial features of the contract, e.g. the optimal contract term length, procurement method and revenue risk allocation that best fits their needs. The local authorities would be primarily responsible for regulation and contract / performance monitoring, unless additional regulation was also established via an independent body.”

So although in this report it is about CalMac and the West Coast – it has huge implications for Orkney and Shetland.

In her statement to the Scottish Parliament the then Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said on Wednesday 28 September 2022:

“For island businesses, for children and young people and for all of those who depend on these lifeline services – we owe it to them to get this right. “

the Shapinsay ferry sailing out in the evening on a flat calm sea from Kirkwall Harbour
Shapinsay Ferry credit K Armet

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