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Caledonian MacBrayne carried more than five million passengers in 2016, the first time it has reached this milestone since 1997.
The company operates the UK’s largest ferry network, with 32 vessels carrying out more than 136,000 sailings annually.
Many routes saw significant rises in car and passenger numbers in the first full year since road equivalent tariff (RET) was introduced across all areas.
There were 5,055,827 passengers and 1,356,396 cars carried across the network, 428,801 more passengers and 186,695 more cars than in 2015.
The highest increase in car numbers on a 2015-2016 like-for-like was 74.9 per cent on the crossing between Kilchoan and Tobermory, which also saw one of the highest increases in passenger numbers, at 29.61 per cent. As a result, a larger vessel will operate this route this summer.
The Mallaig to the Small Isles route saw car numbers increase by 52.33 per cent and passenger numbers by a more modest 9.39 per cent.
Other routes with increases of more than 20 per cent in cars and 15 per cent in passenger numbers included Ardmhor (Barra) to Eriskay, Skye to Raasay and Harris (Leverburgh) to Berneray.
Cars on the Fionnphort to Iona crossing increased by 23 per cent, while Ullapool to Stornoway saw 19.83 per cent more cars and 13.85 per cent more passengers.
Mallaig to Armadale had a boost with 12.5 per cent more cars, while Mallaig to Lochboisdale, which had a new summer timetabled service introduced in 2016, saw increases of around 2,000 per cent in both passengers and cars.
CalMac’s managing director Martin Dorchester said : ‘Last year was our busiest in terms of passengers for two decades. This is a great reflection on the professionalism of our staff in dealing with an increase in more than 400,00 passengers and almost 190,000 cars whilst still running a smooth operation to help all our travellers, whether islanders or visitors, business or pleasure to get where they are going.’
Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, said: ‘Passing the five million passenger mark is fantastic news and I congratulate all the CalMac staff involved in delivering this achievement.’