Ferry booking office must remain in Yell, say isles councillors
North Isles councillors are demanding the booking office for inter-island ferries should stay in Yell.
The SIC wants to “centralise” the service, shutting the booking office in Whalsay and cutting staff from four to three, to save £27,129 a year.
Councillors heard today that one money-saving option could be to shut the Ulsta office too, combining the ticket office with the council’s harbour operation at Sella Ness instead.
But North Isles members Robert Henderson and Steven Coutts are adamant the office ought to be kept at Ulsta. They point out that the council has a policy of trying to disperse as many jobs as possible to remote and rural areas.
Mr Henderson said he wanted the booking service kept in Yell until a full online booking system was available to the public.
“The booking office in Ulsta serves as a communication hub for the North Isles, not only for the Yell Sound service but also the Bluemull Sound service,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to leave jobs in an outlying area of Shetland, which I don’t see can be done with any less involvement of staff, whether they be based in Ulsta or Sella Ness.”
Infrastructure director Phil Crossland promised the booking office would remain at Ulsta until more information had been collected, but the matter remains under review.
Meanwhile, the council will examine the Fair Isle community’s suggestion that a higher vehicle fare for non-islanders could be introduced.
It would include a tonnage charge for construction firms travelling to Fair Isle to carry out work. Islanders estimate it could raise a four-figure sum and might help safeguard their under-threat ferry journeys to and from Lerwick.
Two council committees – environment and infrastructure, and development – backed a ferry savings package worth £990,000.
As reported in last week’s Shetland Times, the measures include introducing fares for pensioners, doubling the cost of a child’s return fare and increasing the price of non multi-journey tickets. The savings package goes before the Full Council for approval on Wednesday.
Next month will see a series of public consultations ahead of a crunch meeting in December where councillors will consider a further £2.8 million in ferry cuts. That could include £1 million from reducing the Yell Sound service from two ships to one and some drastic changes to timetables.