Young and old could pay more to use isles ferries

Pensioners could lose their free trips on Shetland’s inter-island ferries and children may see their fares doubled.

Passenger and domestic vehicle fares could also be increased by more than 15 per cent for those buying non multi-journey tickets.

Councillors will be asked to approve the measures next week in the latest instalment of an ongoing, root-and-branch review of ferries being carried out by the local authority. Consultation with the public, staff and unions is continuing on bigger, more controversial and potentially damaging ferry cuts.

The finalised ferries review, proposing savings of up to £2.8 million a year from the £13 million annual budget, will go before councillors in Decem­ber. The ultimate decision on where the axe should fall is due to be taken six days before Christmas.

In an interim report going before a special SIC meeting on Wednesday, members will be presented with a list of changes either already carried out or requiring their approval to save just under £1 million a year. The council says these are “opera­tional efficiencies which can be imple­mented quickly with minimal service impact”.

Councillors are being asked to back the introduction of a new con­cessionary fare for over-60s Shetland residents, who currently pay nothing at all. At £1 for a return ticket, pensioners would pay less than quarter of the price an adult does. A child’s return fare would rise from 50p to £1. Both young and old would have to stump up £5 for a multi-journey ticket covering 10 returns.

Steps will be taken to clamp down on passengers who skip paying their fare, presumably by ensuring that ticket collectors are more vigilant.

Passenger returns could rise from £4.30 to £5, while a vehicle’s return trip could rise in cost from £10 to £12.50. A new £15-a-ticket tourist fare for visitors to Fair Isle, signi­ficantly higher than the normal £4.10 rate, is set to be introduced.

The need to retain relief vessels will be reviewed, with the likelihood of the Thora being removed from service and sold in 2015. That is likely to net a one-off £150,000 and a yearly saving of £141,000.

Measures already being enacted include deleting a handful of jobs, better management of sea staff holidays and sourcing cheaper fuel contracts. Most councillors yesterday attended a seminar to hear where the deeper cuts could fall. One member said afterwards that the whole thing looked “pretty draconian” and would be “difficult to swallow” for beleaguered island communities.

North Isles councillor Robert Henderson has previously warned that his constituency could become devoid of young folk if spending on ferries falls too steeply. “There is a fear in the isles that if ferry services are cut, they will be tied to their home patch for a significant part of the day. Young people will be the first to vote with their feet,” he said this summer.

Nearly £2 million could be saved on the Bluemull Sound and Yell Sound routes which keep Fetlar, Yell and Unst folk connected to the Mainland. Over £1 million would come from the Yell Sound route, either by reducing the service from two ships to one except at morning peak times, or by going down to a single ship operation at all times.

The option of going down to one vessel on the Bluemull Sound route, sidelining the Geira, remains in the mix. So does reintroducing fares on the Unst service, although the entire fare structure for all ferries will also come under the microscope.

Little was left off the table when the council launched a series of public consultations on ferry cuts back in June. Already some 31 money-saving ideas have been aban­doned because they were impractical, required too high a financial outlay or would not result in savings.

Among the measures which will not happen, for now at least, are: stationing vessels at alternative term­inals; introducing a chain ferry on the Lerwick-Bressay route; replac­ing Fair Isle’s Good Shepherd with a new purpose-built vessel; combining the outer isles services to Fair Isle, Foula and Papa Stour; and building a council-owned dry dock.

SIC development committee chair­man Alastair Cooper said yesterday: “While there has been a significant change since we started this process in the amount of savings we are now required to make, we are absolutely committed to developing and delivering an efficient and sus­tainable inter-island ferry service.”


Add Your Comment
  • Neil williamson

    • October 25th, 2012 20:48

    Lets forget about raping the north isles for a change and see what NEEDLESS money is being wasted in tge town and other mainland areas, ie the bus service in town which aimlessly heads around town with hardly any one on them and people paying peanuts for it? Lets hear some figures! And lets scrap the Golf club mega hand outs! That has been a joke all my memory!
    The ferries are essential, lets steer clear from destroying tge isles!

  • johnmcphail

    • October 26th, 2012 9:22

    What you are seeing is a wholescale attaxk upon the outer islands in Shetland. Those areas least able to take it are being placed inline for the largest cuts. Those areas balancing on a tightrope of viability are being pushed by this council. If they continue with their plans re schools, ferries etc then this Lerwick dominated council will go done in the history books as causing and presiding over the second period of Highland clearances. They will fatally wound those vibrant island communities which make Shetland special and who fight to exist despite the already considerable threats to their way of life. They should remember how the Duke of Sutherland is remembered by the communites he affected. Do they really want history books to remember them this way?

  • William caukwell

    • October 27th, 2012 18:40

    Agree totally with last comment,why huge outlay on building breakwater on fetlar then could we could loose the geira?ferries to fetlar are few and far between in my opinion,but we want tourists and visitors to come to our island,going to doctors and hospital appointments is difficult enough,so we will have to rely more on helicopter evacuation,but if copters are tied up on other jobs sometimes it could be hours for evacuation and lives are at risk, but it seems as if SIC are trying to shut us down,we cannot let that happen!

  • Brian Twigley

    • October 29th, 2012 15:46

    And how much does a helicopter cost compared to the ferry I wonder..

    The council really just need to stop wasting money on the thousands of staff which don’t really do very much. Why on earth are we letting these brainless fools slash and slash when they really have no idea what they are doing! They just add up some figures and cut where they can save the most.

    What will it be next. Take your own rubbish to the tip, and do away with collections? or how about learn on wikipedia instead of going to school that would save a bit of cash.

    Heres one for you, why not stop needlessly repaving roads. So they are a little worn, deal with it!

    3 ‘cleansing operatives’ wandering round the street picking up absolutely nothing all day every day.


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