Engaging with the community

Kevin Hobbs, CEO

Like much of the world, the last few months has seen the return of in-person, face-to-face events.

Engaging with the communities we serve is integral to our operation.  It allows us to ensure the ferries and infrastructure we provide are efficient, and cost-effective, and that they meet the needs of users. Listening and gathering insight informs our decision making and planning processes.

And while the last two years meant we couldn’t host our in-person meetings the way we wanted to, it did encourage us to embrace technology, and explore new ways to reach our audiences.  We hosted community meetings and information sessions via Zoom and Teams, which meant we were able to be include people who live across the country.

For example, we have been consulting online with communities about the terminal redevelopment work at Port Ellen on Islay. We will also be visiting Islay, Jura and Colonsay to meet with the communities’ face to face and discuss the port enabling works which go alongside the replacement vessels for the Islay routes.

While online meetings are not going to replace our face-to-face roadshows, we are finding ways to host the events in hybrid form. Recently we held an in-person, drop-in meeting in Daliburgh, South Uist to share information on the new Gasay Ferry Terminal. We also created an immersive virtual exhibition on our website – which allowed interested parties from across the country to access all information, as well as online versions of feedback forms.

We will always strive to provide information in the most accessible way – via face-to-face exhibitions, online webinars, our website, social media and through reference groups, ferry user groups and community councils. However, we must also remember that we are one of three organisations collaborating to ensure communities’ needs are being met.

CalMac and Northlink, as the ferry operators, provide us with information about ferry users, which helps inform the operational requirements, such as capacity and crewing. Funding is controlled by Transport Scotland, and we have no means to borrow any additional funds from alternative sources to bolster plans.

In February 2021, the Scottish Government published its Investment in Infrastructure Plan, which committed £580m to Scottish ferry infrastructure between 2021 and 2026. We welcomed this announcement, and it has allowed us to plan and expedite a 10-year investment strategy. As of August 2022, we have three major harbour upgrade projects in progress, and live vessels projects to replace 15 ferries – almost half the fleet – underway.

We keep our website project pages up to date, and regularly ask for feedback there and across our social media channels and via community meetings.  We would encourage you to connect with us so you can have your say.