Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
213. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the criteria that was used to determine the frequency of sailings when publishing the tender for a ferry service (details supplied); the details of the annual customer numbers availing of the ferry sailings for the past five years in tabular form; if there is scope to increase the number of ferry sailings to more than two return sailings per day; if an analysis can be provided on the way this compares with ferry services provided to other islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26862/21]
Ensuring that island communities have access to reliable transport services is a core objective of my Department. A subsidy is paid to attract operators to provide a service where it may not otherwise be viable for them to do so. While the subsidy will assist with operating costs and to establish a transport service, operators are encouraged to develop the service further.
As is standard with Requests for Tender (RFTs) issued by this Department for ferry services, the frequency of sailings requested is a minimum acceptable number. Prospective operators are encouraged to include additional sailings and services above the stated minimum required, and commonly do so. The RFT does not in any way limit the number of sailings that operators can supply. As with all schedules, timetables are discussed and agreed with the island communities prior to the commencement of a service. Where there is a demand for extra sailings, operators may, and do provide additional sailings.
The number of subsidised services varies from island to island, contingent on the location of the island, distance from the mainland, the access to services - schools, shops and other services on the island - the number of passengers / tourists etc.
When developing an RFT the frequency of the sailings requested is a minimum acceptable level. Distance from the mainland and the availability of shops, schools and local services all contribute to the number of sailings required.
The table below sets out the number of passengers carried by the subsidised ferry services on the route referred to by the Deputy over the past five years.