In The Shetland Times (10th May) 25 years ago section, an article interested me. The Whalsay ferry was scheduled to do nine extra runs. This was the first of many changes made due to enormous demand for traffic to get on/off the island.
At the time only one ferry ran this service. I remember all the controversy well, as I worked on the ferry then, turning travellers away on an hourly basis.
In 1988, a ferry which could carry 18 cars was the norm. Soon after this a second ferry, years out of date, but capable of carrying 10 to 12 cars was added to the Whalsay crossing – week days – because of the then ever increasing demand for traffic space. Little has changed here since then, except in 1991, due to further increasing demand, the second ferry started to run all weekend alongside the other vessel.
This 1991 Whalsay ferry schedule remained static until now.
This week the Whalsay ferry service has gone back to exactly what it was 25 years ago. Another 18 car ferry, and another 10 to 12 car ferry beyond its sell by date – which runs only week days.
So let me be clear: there will be only one ferry operating at weekends, which will leave up to two hour gaps between departures. Considering the second ferry transported 110 cars the last Sunday it ran, the wait will probably be much longer for potential customers at weekends. This combined with the crossings lost around the top of the day on Monday and Wednesday, will leave many people stranded for hours, perhaps with a carful of restless children.
Much has been improved across Shetland and the world in 25 years, it’s not often so large steps back in time are made. To cut a service running mainly at maximum capacity, will have a very detrimental effect on this community. Many Whalsay homes now stand empty, with ever lower prospects of sale. I fear for Whalsay’s fate during the next quarter century.
Good luck to the ferry men now facing the return to all the turning away of angry faces, and good luck to all intending to travel to/from Whalsay. May you all have the best patience in the world, it was reasonable while it lasted.
Peter Walker Anderson