RET extension should apply to all commercial vehicles, argues FTA

Tuesday 07 February 2012

Following industry's criticism of proposals to scrap the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) for lorries which use ferry services to move goods between the Western Isles of Scotland and the mainland, Scottish Government has agreed to extend fare savings to commercial vehicles of six metres. But, FTA asks, why not lorries?

The RET sets ferry fares to the equivalent cost for vehicles travelling the same distance by road and in 2008 a pilot scheme was introduced for the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree. But from April lorries will not be included in the scheme, which will continue for cars, coaches and small commercial vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, and, as of today’s announcement, commercial vehicles up to six metres.

Christopher MacRae, FTA's Head of Policy for Scotland, said:

"By extending the limit by one metre, Scottish Government are effectively saying we don’t want to penalise road freight operators of large vans who keep our island communities thriving. So what have they got against lorries? Obviously, they take up more room than vans on the ferry, but what are we saying to lorry operators, that they should use two vans instead of one lorry – where is the economic, environmental or commercial sense in that?

"While Scottish Government's move is welcome news to some commercial vehicle operators, it still doesn't go far enough. Lorries are not going to disappear, but any profit margin that their operators hope to make in delivering goods and services to and from these islands certainly will if the RET is scrapped for lorries. This will force them to increase costs and could add inflationary pressure on these delicate island economies."

Members whose operations or supply chains are affected by these changes are asked to contact Christopher MacRae at, tel 07818 450353.

Notes for editors

1. A full copy of the final report can be found at

2. The Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme involves setting ferry fares on the basis of the cost of travelling an equivalent distance by road. Typically RET would offer substantial fares reductions across almost all ferry routes in Scotland. A pilot has been running in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree since October 2008 and is due to end in spring 2012.

3. Vehicles on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree routes that currently pay CalMac's commercial vehicle rate will have RET replaced by an enhanced pre-RET discount scheme. The maximum pre-RET discount was 15%. This has been increased to 25%.

One calculation from an FTA member showed that without RET the fares increase from Lochmaddy to Uig would be +172% and even with the 25% discount it would still see a fare increase of +104%.

4. Commercial vehicles that fall within the measurements required to attract a car ticket will attract RET. CalMac charge their commercial vehicle rate to vehicles that are over 5m (now 6m) in length, 2.3m in width, 3m in height or 3.5 tonnes in weight. Coaches will continue to attract RET.

5. Routes included in RET plans

Confirmed to continue from spring 2012:

- Western Isles: Oban-Castlebay, Oban – Lochboisdale, Ullapool – Stornoway, Uig-Tarbert, Uig-Lochmaddy 
- Coll and Tiree: Oban-Coll-Tiree

Confirmed to begin a pilot in October 2012:

- Colonsay: Oban – Colonsay – Port Askaig– Kennacraig
- Gigha: Tayinloan - Gigha 
- Islay: Kennacraig – Port Askaig/Port Ellen,

Confirmed to begin a pilot in October 2014:

- Arran: Ardrossan – Brodick & Claonaig – Lochranza

Confirmed to be rolled out within the term of this Parliament:

- Bute: Colintraive – Rhubodach & Wemyss Bay – Rothesay 
- Cumbrae: Largs - Cumbrae Slip
- Iona: Fionnphort - Iona 
- Lismore: Oban - Lismore 
- Mull: Oban-Craignure, Tobermory-Kilchoan & Lochaline-Fishnish 
- Raasay: Sconser– Raasay 
- Skye: Mallaig-Armadale 
- Small Isles: Mallaig – Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna 
- Sound of Barra: Barra-Eriskay 
- Sound of Harris: Berneray-Leverburgh 

Transport Scotland will consider roll out of RET to Local Authority, commercially run routes and mainland – mainland routes following the outcome of the Ferries Review.


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