Serco boss promises to listen to customers as £1m refurbishment unveiled

Serco NorthLink managing director Stuart Garrett has pledged that the company will continue to listen to feedback from customers having completed a £1m refurbishment of its passenger ships.

Among the on-board changes is an increase in the number of reclining chairs available from 128 to 167. That includes 36 so-called “sleeping pods” in a new premium recliner lounge, which Serco promised to introduce to address a shortage of sleeping quarters during times of peak demand.

Other changes include removing the previous a la carte dining room and offering one standard dinner menu throughout the two ships.

That has seen Shetland lamb removed from the Hjaltland and Hrossey, but Mr Garrett insisted Serco NorthLink remained committed to supporting local producers. A meeting with a local lamb supplier is due to take place on Friday.

Public showers are being made available for a charge, as is access to a new relaxation area, the Magnus Lounge. Plans to axe the on-board cinema have been dropped.

“Lots of the changes are as a consequence of the feedback that we received before and shortly after the contract was transferred,” said Mr Garrett.

“We will continue to listen to feedback, if it’s menu options, breakfast options, whether or not we’re carrying enough local produce, seasonality of produce, is the charging structure right, are we not getting the demand that we thought we should have been getting.”

He continued: “I’d like to think that in the process of time, when the changes all bed in, the key stakeholders would recognise that what we’ve done has enhanced the experience of travelling to and from Shetland.”

The “group island discount scheme”, which helped sports clubs and school groups travel south by ferry, is under review. MSP Tavish Scott has voiced concern about the prospect of clubs having to pay increased fares and costs.

Mr Garrett said Serco NorthLink had a “very effective company sponsorship programme in place” and wanted to ensure there was a standard deal for such groups, with no informal arrangements in place for certain clubs.

“We are contractually obliged to Transport Scotland to manage the business in the way that’s specified within the contract, and that’s what we’ll do – not to do that would be irregular.”


Add Your Comment
  • Michael Grant

    • February 25th, 2013 9:06

    Having just travelled last week on board the Hrossay the changes to the bar area and other parts of the ship will hopefully put an end to having people sleeping all over the boat getting in the way and being a nuisance.Only downside is the price of breakfast being set at a fixed price off nearly a tenner,so for a family of 4 it will cost 40 quid for brekfast,what if you only want a bacon roll and a mug of tea,cant see this working for you.Also we had great service quayside as the staff noticed our disabled sticker and as we were on the lower car deck with steep stairs up to the main car deck they put the car down and back up in the morning for us,big well done.

  • Stewart Mack

    • February 25th, 2013 11:59

    Surprised to see you call passengers trying to sleep a nuisance – Its not their fault that a boat designed by committee to fit he needs of few has far too few cabins. Where else are people supposed to sleep? in the (not so) reclining seats? How many people can get even a half reasonable sleep sat upright? The natural position is to try and lay down but now thats been scuppered by putting armrests across the seats to try to drive people elsewhere. As for £10 for Breakfast regardless of what you have, well i guess the Cafe’s of Aberden and Lerwick will now do a roaring trade. I said it before and i’ll say it again the ONLY way Serco could underbid Northlink was to a) cut staff and/or b) raise prices and who would believe it, both have come to pass. Surprise surprise. Its strange to think that a “lifeline” service should be subject to a drive for profit, which defeats the purpose of “lifeline” but then what do you expect with the Scottish Government and Serco together. There is now little reason to step on the boat unless absolutely necessary, by the time you add up all the extras we are being hearded towards its all but cheaper to fly. Poor for Global warming but sadly typical of Scotland today

  • John Tulloch

    • February 25th, 2013 20:22


    Don’t worry about global warming, go by plane, last week saw a new all-time record cold temperature for the Northern Hemisphere, in Oymyakon, Siberia – just weather?

    Possibly, but it beat the old record which had stood since 1933 by over 3 Celsius!

    Anyway, the Met Office says it’s been stopped for 16 years and will stay thus for another 5 years and the chairman of the IPCC agrees.


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