The state-owned carrier plans to phase out its season tickets, which cover 12- or six-month passes with three-month and weekly tickets also available.
Cumbrae Islanders have opposed the plan, with the 10-minute commute commonly made by residents for shopping, with some trips to work and others for education.
Under the proposals, the price of a trip will rise from £2.08 with a 12-month season ticket to the regular rate of £3.50, an increase of just over 40 per cent.
CalMac said season tickets were not intended to be sold under road-equivalent fare rules, which were fully introduced in 2015 to provide a fairer and more affordable pricing structure for ferry crossings. The subscriptions have been kept for sale to islanders in some cases, but they are not advertised, it is understood.
Councilor Alex Gallagher (Labour), Coordinator for the Islands and member of the Finance Cabinet at North Ayrshire Council, which covers Largs and Cumbrae, said: “It is a mistake to remove these season tickets and Cal Mac should rethink the situation.
“The Road Equivalent Fee scheme was intended to reduce the cost of traveling to the islands, but the journey between Largs and Cumbrae is very short and when you run it through the RET calculator there was no reduction in cost. Season tickets were continues on a discretionary basis.
“The passes were not advertised and are not in the standard brochure, but islanders were able to get in and out of the islands at a reasonable cost.
“I have no idea why they have decided to take them away now. I urge you to strongly reconsider this move as I believe it is an injustice to the islanders.”
“Islanders already face higher costs; this could make things even more difficult for them.”
Outlook: Future of CalMac ferry service under scrutiny as islanders’ frustration grows…
Other short routes in the area will also have season tickets withdrawn with passes no longer available for travel from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay, Colintraive to Rhubodach and Oban to Craignure.
The group Cumbrae and Travel and Tourist has also criticized CalMac’s move.
A statement said the increases would “massively affect” those traveling to and from the islands.
“This will have a detrimental effect on the affordability of those who ride the ferry for work, education, child care and many other individual reasons.”
CalMac denied a claim by the group that fares could rise by 50 percent, saying a limited proportion of travelers would be affected. Q dozen Annual Passes are in use on the Largs to Cumbrae route with over 450,000 passengers carried on the route each year.
A CalMac spokeswoman said: “Since Transport Scotland introduced the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), which offers discounted ferry travel, we have been removing products such as season tickets. The rules regarding RET state that additional discounts should not be sold on top of what are already cheaper tickets.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said the RET scheme had led to an estimated average fare reduction of 34% for passengers and 40% for car traffic and “continues to save travelers around £25m. year”.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.