Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) involves setting ferry fares on the basis of the cost of traveling an equivalent distance by road, including a fixed element to keep fares sustainable and cover fixed costs such as infrastructure. Transport Scotland commissioned a two-year evaluation of the impact of RET on the island of Arran. The evaluation was informed by a range of primary (i.e. ferry user, household, business and haulier surveys) and secondary (i.e. ferry operator and socio-economic data) research.
RET has significantly increased resident ferry travel across all journey purposes. The demand for ferry services increased significantly, particularly car carryings. Arran was the first island in close proximity to the Central Belt in receipt of RET and has accordingly experienced a larger absolute impact than any other island previously receiving RET. The increase in demand has given rise to growing capacity issues on the Ardrossan-Brodick route. Increase in demand in part driven by step-change in scale of Arran tourism market with increase car traffic having a disproportionately positive effect on the remote/rural areas of Arran.
There is a widely held view amongst Arran residents that RET has been beneficial for the Arran economy, largely because of the positive impact in terms of tourism. There is also an overwhelmingly positive view amongst residents that RET has enhanced the social, cultural and economic opportunities on the island. Despite this, however, Arran residents responded that the quality of life has declined since the reduced fares were introduced, with congestion, negative environmental impacts and increased incidences of anti-social behaviour being cited.