MSP to challenge Serco chief over islanders’ ferry concerns

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott is planning to raise islanders’ concerns about Serco’s recent changes to the North Boats service at a meeting with its chief executive Stuart Garrett on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Scott said he planned to discuss the impact of Serco NorthLink’s recent £1 million refurbishment of its two passenger ships.

Issues which islanders have voiced disquiet about include the introduction of the premium access Magnus Lounge, removal of Shetland lamb from the vessels’ menu and other catering changes.

“Many Shetlanders have been in touch concerned about some of the changes which have affected our lifeline ferry service,” Mr Scott said.

“I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss group islander discounts and worries over changes to on-board catering and prices with Serco’s chief executive.

“It is disappointing that Shetland produce appears to have been dropped from the menus at a time when most consumers are pushing for locally sourced and traceable, trustworthy ingredients to be more available.”

Mr Scott added: “This is a lifeline service, not a mini-cruise, for most Shetlanders. Services for those travelling on a budget, for whom getting from A to B is the main objective, need to be accessible without additional entrance fees and the feeling of segregation.”


Add Your Comment
  • Sandy McDonald

    • March 5th, 2013 18:22

    I’ve heard the food is rubbish now! A pity as the food in the resteraunt used to be very acceptable.

  • Margret Sinclair

    • March 6th, 2013 11:54

    My Daughter recently traveled with Northlink, food very average & expensive. Not like it was before SERCO took control

  • David Spence

    • March 6th, 2013 12:40

    Travelled a few weeks ago and the food was a vast improvement, but still overpriced for what it was. Almost £10 for a breakfast is insane, surely they are costing themselves customers with prices like that?

  • Michael Grant

    • March 6th, 2013 13:19

    Nothing wrong with the food a couple weeks ago and not to expensive either(except the brekkie)went to cafe in Aberdeen for that,also bar prices no more than we pay in the local pubs anyway.This is not a cruise liner is it or is there just no pleasing some folk!

  • Robert Erasmuson

    • March 6th, 2013 14:35

    “I’ve heard”?

    Surely any comment you make should be based on facts, not hearsay?

  • Sue Beer

    • March 6th, 2013 15:00

    Travelled a few weeks ago and the food was fine in the evening offering; but £10 for breakfast was ridiculous. I was travelling with someone who needed something to eat with which to take medication; the only alternative to a £10 breakfast was a bacon roll. We would have loved a bowl of porridge, but not at £10!

  • Allen Fraser

    • March 6th, 2013 18:26

    I hope SERCO chief executive Stuart Garrett doesn’t continue to emulate Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary by charging for every add-on he can think of; at least Ryanair’s ticket prices start low, SERCO – NorthLink’s prices certainly don’t.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • March 7th, 2013 3:50

    Robert Eramuson, your comment adds nothing to the discussion, it is purely a jibe to rile another commentator. If I hear a story from a person who’s opinion I trust I am well within my rights to mention this. If its more detail you wish, the complaint was specifically against the quality of the food on offer, and the fact that one of the “specials” was that well known culinary master piece: Sausage Casarole (that looked as if it had been made in the same factory as one of those minging Tescos ready meals).

  • Kim Dixon

    • March 7th, 2013 8:16

    I recently used the Northlink ferry, the food was marginally better. I had the breakfast in the morning and so did my husband, that was £10 each (i was able to claim for mine so it evened it out) so we had the full english but for that price it shoud be a buffet breakfast so that you could come back for more if you wished, yes, you could go back and fill up with orange juice and cereal but it seemed that the hod food was a once only! I sound very piggy, but say I was a worker who wanted a big breakfast? It wasn’t a big hot breakfast!

    However I made one mistake. When I returned home and checked my receipts I found a voucher which I hadn’t been told about that gave a free breakfast the next day valid only for that journey!! Did anyone else miss this amongst the masses of till receipts given at breakfast? It would have been useful to have been told this at the checkout!! Get with it staff!!

  • Harry Dent

    • March 7th, 2013 12:51

    £10 for breakfast?

    Flipping heck, I’ll be straight off the ferry and into the nearest caff!

  • mike perry

    • March 7th, 2013 21:26

    If you think you have been over charged on the Northlink Ferry, send a photo copy of your recipt to the Scottish goverment and ask to be reimbursed part of the cost, they gave the contract to Serco.

  • Jonathon Sandison

    • March 8th, 2013 15:22

    Just as they give a big wodge of cash to the ferry companies just to keep us 25,000 people “connected”. A sum many as local authority throughout the rest of Scotland would give their back teeth for. But suppose we deserve it all.

  • David Spence

    • March 8th, 2013 16:10

    I wonder if Serco would charge you for a plate with no food upon it?

    Bring onboard your own food, sandwiches etc. ask for a plate at the kitchen service and proceed to sit down at a table and eat your own food. Would they get the hint or charge you for a plate with no food on it, apart from your own lol.

    On a previous trip on the boat, under Serco, I asked for a cup of hot water at the kitchen counter (and wasn’t charged for it) and brought my own coffee (ok, it was nescafe 3 in 1 packets (powdered milk, sugar and coffee)) and have had no problems with staff when I ask for another cup of hot water. I hope, in future, this continues, but given the fact that there are more con’s (literally) than pro’s, it would not surprise me if Serco did charge for a cup of hot water.

  • M Inkster

    • March 8th, 2013 22:37

    Why should they not seek to make a charge, albeit nominal, for hot water or the provision of plates? They are, after all, running a business and have overheads to meet to heat the water, deliver it to you, wash the crockery afterwards and employ someone to do all of this! £10 breakfasts, however, will not work as I suspect most folk are looking for a cup of tea/coffee and cereal/roll/toast for £3/4?
    Michael Inkster

  • Mirren Young

    • March 10th, 2013 9:48

    I travel to the islands regularly, and with it taking hours of international flights to get there it would be lovely to also have a bed or chair to sleep in without having to pay a fortune! The boats are in lovely condition, with great service. But i agree the food is very overpriced, Islanders only want to get back and forth!

    I have purchased cabins before only to find out that getting a plane to Shetland is almost the same price! Finding out that now their is no sleeping in the lounges or bars (fair enough call) means that we now have to pay to sleep on the recliners.. why the change? I can understand having to sleep elsewhere.. but having to pay to sleep is a bummer when it’s an overnight boat.

    I can understand the idea of buying your own food before you go on the boat, but if you are traveling.. who wants to take a suitcase through a supermarket?.. Also if you are buying a cabin and want to take your own food, their is no fridge! for milk ect. The food is wonderful. The boat is in good condition.. People don’t take the boat for luxury, they take it for a cheaper way to shetland, something to eat and a sleep!

  • Andrew graham

    • June 4th, 2013 11:27

    I note having just booked my annual trip to Shetland the discounted friends and family deal that historically ended on the last day of June has now been brought forward to the 14th June, this of course means that any friends or family that have children at school can no longer benefit from this discount as the schools don’t break up until the end of June. this decision is anything but family orientated or friendly, its a cynical change designed only to maximize profit and rip off the customer..

    This company is a disgrace and is anything but community spirited!

  • John Tulloch

    • June 4th, 2013 13:28

    Greater local control of services would have either prevented this fiasco or Shetlanders would have recourse through the ballot box.

    Being able to vote against the Scottish government is no good as Shetland’s share of the total vote is too small to make any difference. We need full control of local services where the perpetrators of such failures are accountable to the users of the service.

    Isn’t saving money like this a disgrace when Shetland contributes £82M a year to the UK and especially when the government’s £40M oil boom housing debt to the SIC has still not been honoured after going on forty years?

    We haven’t heard from Jean Urquhart and the local Scottish independence campaigners “Yes Shetland” recently, where do they stand on this SNP government debacle and the £40M debt?

  • Joe johnson

    • June 4th, 2013 16:21

    £10 for breakfast! what a rip off! I just would not have breakfast on the boat as I would not pay £10 just for breakfast. I’ve paid less at a all you can eat resturant!

  • David Spence

    • June 4th, 2013 19:19

    Serco are the perfect example of why we shouldn’t get the private sector involved in anything related to lifeline services or for that matter state run services.

    The private sector’s main priority is the ‘ quick buck mentality ‘. Rip-ff people as much as you can and get rich as quickly as you can. Install the greed and get rich quick mentality into those people who only think of themselves (called shareholders) and what prosperity they can gain for themselves at the cost of everybody else.

    It is because of Serco and its obvious behaviour in wanting to maximize their profits before their contract runs out which anger many people.

    A typical example of a capitalist mentality where greed, profit, selfishness with a ‘ I couldn’t care less attitude towards everybody else ‘ are the main traits of a company putting themselves ahead of the service they are supposed to be providing.


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