Tendering for the new Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Services (CHFS) contract will begin in autumn 2014 Scottish Ministers have announced.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) welcomed the news earlier this month that the Clyde and Hebrides bundle of ferry services will not be split into single routes.
A new three year interim contract will be put in place with the existing operator, CalMac, during the procurement exercise.
Transport Minister, Keith Brown said: “I can confirm that we intend to take forward the procurement of the new contract for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services as a single contract. We have looked closely at the options available to us to drive up ferry service standards and no compelling case that tendering individual routes - or ‘unbundling’ the current contract – has been put to me.
“This decision will allay fears stoked by some that we are seeking to break up routes for individual operators to run.
“To facilitate a thorough and robust procurement for the new contract, CalMac are to be awarded a new three year interim contract to deliver services when the current contract expires next autumn. CalMac's status will not change – the company will remain under our ownership, delivering services on behalf of Scottish Ministers under the same terms and conditions.
“The services they deliver will not change. The new three year contract award will also provide certainty for CalMac staff and the local communities CalMac serves.”
“Since 2007 the Scottish Government has provided ferry services with over £550 million of support and most recently awarded a new £242 million contract for Northern Isles ferry services.”