Up to 200 people are expected at a public demonstration on Saturday over what is described as a ferry ticketing 'failure'.

The Cumbrae Ferry Committee say islanders have been left "up the creek without a paddle" with a range of ticketing issues that they say are "discriminatory".

They have raised concerns that the island is to become "inaccessible" after ferry operator CalMac imposed an up to 70% increase in fares.

It raised fears that nurses and teachers that go to Great Cumbrae, sometimes called Millport after its main town, to support care services and schools will not make the trip as the ferry operator does away with season tickets.

The committee say it has made travel unaffordable in the cost of living crisis.

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They said annual season tickets effectively ended in December, last year at a cost of £463 after CalMac began a phase out the previous December. They say an equivalent cost for a day return over 220 working days would set users back £792.

They said monthly passes were being phased out by the end of April having already seen six-month tickets removed.

They say there is further frustration over changes meaning that people living on the island can now only buy single tickets at offices, although they are available digitally.

They say two single concession tickets cost a third more than a day return would and that it is "fundamentally discriminatory to islanders".

And they say that while teenagers can apply for a card to access the Young Persons' (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel Scheme to travel on a bus unaccompanied for free, they cannot buy a ferry ticket direct without an adult.

The Herald: Fiona HyslopFiona Hyslop.

The group has written to transport minister Fiona Hyslop to ask for improvement in the ticketing system which discriminates against islanders on Cumbrae. To raise the profile of these issues within the media we plan Angus Campbell, chairman of the ferry committee said the ticketing system was failing islanders.

He said: "Nothing has moved on the season tickets. Nothing has happened.

"We have been complaining for months.

"This is our home and you cannot buy a return ticket on the islands. It is discriminatory to islanders.

"You have to be digitally enabled and 55% of people over 65 are not.

"They introduced the ticketing system in May and we are frustrated with it. We are struggling to get the transport minister to meet us. We feel we are left up the creek without a paddle. The ticket system is for CalMac not islanders.

"We feel abandoned."

The public demonstration is expected at 10am at the ferry slip on the Isle of Cumbrae.

It comes five months after hundreds of people, cars, lorries and vans embarked on a public demonstration over cuts to ferry services to South Uist.

Cars and lorries formed a mile-long queue in response to a call to show solidarity in the protest organised by The Lochbosidale Ferry Business Impact group.

It came after CalMac cancelled ferries between the mainland port of Mallaig and Lochboisdale on South Uist for the whole of June as it juggled the ageing fleet to deal with repairs and breakdowns with local businesses estimating a loss of £50,000 per day due to tourism, imports and exports being hit by the cut.

The Cumbrae group say the protest is over the "discriminatory way that Calmac and Transport Scotland have treated the community of Cumbrae through the introduction of Calmac’s new ticketing system".

The demonstration calls for support from the Transport Minister.

The group wants the reinstatement of multi-journey tickets for disabled and concession holders, which they say has been removed.

They want non-digitally enabled islanders on Cumbrae to be able to buy multi-journey, or return tickets on the island.

READ MORE: Islanders to take protest over CalMac service cuts to mainland

Great Cumbrae, which has a community of 1300 residents, historically became an attraction for tourists with Millport a popular stop for Clyde steamers and families going 'doon the watter for the Fair' - a reference to the Glasgow Fair holidays which are usually held during the second half of July.

Daily commuters onto the island include nurses and support staff at the hospital, a GP and practice team, care home staff and those who provide essential care and support services across the island.

Commuters also include teachers and operational staff who run the primary school.

There are also businesses such as a dairy and food delivery service which deliver daily to the island.

The ferry committee, which has been established for over 30 years has said that the increase in costs may compromise the sustainability of services because many key workers and businesses may not be able to absorb such a significant increase in prices.

The Herald: Angus Campbell.

Mr Campbell has said Cumbrae was the only island that did not benefit from the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme. He said tourists benefitted from cheaper prices, while islanders who bought multi-journey tickets did not.

RET is a distance based fares structure introduced after the Scottish Government committed to provide one single overarching fares policy across the country's entire ferry network.

RET, which first started to be brought in in 2015, was described as a "disaster" for Cumbrae.

The lower prices were seen as cheaper for day trippers and visitors, but not for locals, because of the complicated formula used.

That formula calculates fares through a combination of a fixed element - to ensure services remain sustainable and to cover fixed costs such as maintaining harbour infrastructure and vessels - and a rate per mile, calculated by Transport Scotland analysts using contemporary independent research by the RAC.

North Ayrshire Council has previously said that since RET was introduced to the Cumbrae crossing there has been an annual increase in vehicle and passenger journeys on the ferry.

Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: “CalMac's new ticketing platform replaced a 26-year-old system which was end of life and no longer fit for purpose. Customers now have more opportunities regarding purchasing, managing, and using tickets. Since launching in May this year, thousands of customers have successfully used the platform and continue to do so daily. The new system is modern, used by many large ferry companies and offers significant benefits for the customer.

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“Season ticket products were retired in a phased approach following the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff. However, we appreciate that islanders found multi-journey tickets convenient, and we continue to offer a 10-journey product.

“Customers can purchase single tickets in person from the port office in Cumbrae. In addition, Single, Return, Multi-journey, and SPT concession tickets are available online or over the phone via our customer engagement centre. These tickets remain valid for the entire summer or winter timetable period.

Video: The Millport ferry

“Children must purchase unaccompanied minors' tickets in person at the port or from a purser. We do this to protect the children travelling, which aligns with our Conditions of Carriage. It gives our colleagues the support to ensure they are comfortable allowing unaccompanied children to travel on a case-by-case basis.

“We continue to work with and engage with the communities we serve. In the context of the new eBooking platform, this means listening to and focusing on customer feedback. We recently met with residents at a public drop-in session on the island. We have already made changes and improvements to the booking platform based on valuable engagement sessions with our customers and communities and we will continue to make changes on this basis."

A Transport Scotland spokesman  said: “The Minister for Transport has written to the Cumbrae Ferry Committee setting out the current position with the issues they raise.  The Minister has also discussed these with elected representatives and would be happy to meet further in due course.”