Vi­sion for fu­ture

The Oban Times - - Front Page - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­

CalMac chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Dorch­ester speaks to The Oban Times about his visi­ion for the fu­ture of the com­pany and its ser­vices.

LO­CAL jobs, a voice that is heard and a ser­vice which goes above and be­yond to serve com­mu­ni­ties is what CalMac’s chief ex­ec­u­tive wants for the next five years of Scot­land’s big­gest ferry con­tract, worth £900 mil­lion.

Martin Dorch­ester spoke to The Oban Times in depth for the first time since re­new­ing the con­tract to run the ferry ser­vice through­out the west coast of Scot­land.

He says his com­mit­ment to achiev­ing what can be done in the short­est or­der can al­ready be seen by the in­tro­duc­tion of the Ker­rera ferry to the CalMac fleet this sum­mer.

While ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue be­tween Trans­port Scot­land and Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil for fur­ther ser­vices, in­clud­ing Jura, Lis­more (passenger ferry), Eas­dale and Lu­ing, the way in which lo­cal peo­ple are en­gaged with the ferry op­er­a­tor have never been more im­por­tant, ar­gues the com­pany.

A com­mu­nity board is be­ing set up by CalMac to ‘hear the voices of the com­mu­ni­ties from the ru­ral West Coast and its is­lands’. The board of 12 peo­ple and one ‘chair­man’ will meet twice a year and be sep­a­rate from the board of CalMac but will in­form it.

Mr Dorch­ester is con­fi­dent about the fu­ture of the ferry ser­vice, and the way in which it can bring value to the com­mu­ni­ties it serves. He pre­vi­ously an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion from the com­pany but then re­con­sid­ered, say­ing at the time in the press ‘the gov­ern­ment will be un­der­tak­ing a re­view of Scot­tish ferry ser­vices’.

The re­view could re­move the re­quire­ment to put ferry ser­vices out to ten­der. Other con­se­quences may be the man­age­ment struc­ture of CalMac would change to ac­com­mo­date the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment be­ing not only the sole share­holder but also as the de facto em­ployer and man­ager.

Mr Dorch­ester sees the staff of the com­pany as its big­gest as­set, say­ing: ‘We want to make sure that we are be­gin­ning to grow the work­force that will be need in the fu­ture.

‘In the 10 years since the first time we ten­dered for the con­tract, we have steadily been grow­ing our work­force.

‘The jobs with CalMac are of­ten well paid, with good terms and con­di­tions, great ca­reer paths and it will re­main that way.

‘What we will con­tinue to do is cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal peo­ple wher­ever pos­si­ble. That may be within the com­pany or that may be some­thing that we sup­port in cre­at­ing.

‘Take the mu­sic fes­ti­vals – Oban Live, Tiree Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, He­bCelt, Bute Fest. They are all op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow a new mar­ket for our is­lands.

‘We have a fund­ing pro­gramme, Vi­tal Spark, that en­ables groups and in­di­vid­u­als to ap­ply for sup­port in set­ting up some­thing that will be the cat­a­lyst for a busi­ness or an op­por­tu­nity for growth within our com­mu­ni­ties.’

Vi­tal Spark has sup­ported 23 early-stage so­cial en­ter­prises on the West Coast.

Mr Dorch­ester said: ‘ One of our ques­tions ‘is how do we work smarter with the com­mu­nity? Ini­tially, what we can do is sit down with our is­land com­mu­ni­ties and find out what works for them.

‘At the mo­ment we are be­ing tasked with find­ing ways of pro­vid­ing wifi on all our routes and ports. In some ar­eas, it is a hugely dif­fi­cult prob­lem but we will try to find a so­lu­tion for the area be­cause it will ben­e­fit all our cus­tomers.

‘We have reg­u­lar meet­ings with the gov­ern­ment and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and are in good po­si­tion to find so­lu­tions to con­cerns.

‘We can work to­gether. If it is fea­si­ble to do some­thing while con­sid­er­ing the whole of the net­work then we will do our best to de­liver.’

Martin Dorch­ester.

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