Bressay community calls for free ferries

A free ferry service to Bressay was one of the ideas put forward at a residents’ meeting to discuss ways to improve the island.

Folk made their suggestions at an open meeting of the Bressay Community Development Association last night.

The cost and availability of the ferry was seen as the main stumbling block for the island and has been labelled the number one priority for Bressay.

About 30 folk attended the meeting where they were able to jot suggestions down on adhesive notes on different topics and then discuss the ideas.
These included positive promotion of the island – through tourism and social networking – community transport and development ideas for the vacant primary school building.

Residents spoke at length about the ferry issue suggesting free and reduced fares and noted that the timetable needed to be looked at as it was too restrictive.

An early ferry service was also spoken about for folk to get to work on the mainland and there was a call for buses to match up better with the ferry service. Ferry issues were discussed against a backdrop of a falling population and lack of young people making up the isles’ population.

One note on the ferries situation read: “Ferry fares always barrier to families moving into the community. Need to look at ways to make fares more affordable for this group in particular. Maybe by expanding season ticket scheme to suit family groups more? Charge a fixed amount for unlimited ferry travel?”

Another idea was to have better information for tourists before they come on the ferry – such as information about access to Noss, when the shop opens and bus/taxi information.

Developing housing in the island was also called for, with more homes for folk between 18-30 to allow them to stay in Bressay. This was ranked as the second priority, though it was argued it depended on the first – the ferry situation.

Bressay Primary School is set to close. Photo: Charlie Umphray
Bressay Primary School. Photo: Charlie Umphray

Development ideas for the school building also attracted a lot of attention with plenty of notes being stuck under the banner.  These ranged from using the building as a backpackers’ hostel, for a nursery or a gym or as a centre for older people.

Gemma Tulloch was one of those at the meeting, she said walks in Bressay could be promoted and added a lack of affordable housing made it hard for young folk to stay in the island.

Development association member Sheila Tulloch said the lack of an early morning ferry “is putting Bressay back” and added an early morning service was “crucial if you’re going to develop the island”.

Other ideas included environmental projects with suggestions of electric cars being used, wind generation, and an electric ferry.

Association member Hazel Anderson said there were about 350 residents in Bressay and was grateful to those who attended. Although she would have liked to have seen more folk coming to celebrate the achievements of the BCDA so far. That work will continue, she said.

“We have to keep moving forward, we have to keep looking for more volunteers,” added Ms Anderson.  “We have to be looking for more suggestions and ideas from everybody in the community and how to put Bressay back on the map – in terms of transport, promotion of the island, establishing housing and encouraging more folk to come and live in the island.”

The association formed last autumn and has been working to affect positive change for Bressay. An action plan has been created through consultation with locals and a regular skip scheme and newsletter is in place.

Last night an AGM was held following the open meeting. A management committee was formed of 13 members and from there office bearing posts such as chairman, will be elected by committee members. Ideas and priorities of the group will then be taken forward.


Add Your Comment
  • john irvine

    • August 26th, 2014 13:52

    Ok, if Bressay gets free fares then this should be the same for all.

    Why should Bressay get priority over the other isles when they already have a superior service, they can be in Lerwick in 5 mins and they dont even need any other transport!

    • Brian Anderson

      • August 26th, 2014 17:41

      The situation in bressay is completely different to any of the north isles, bressay has no doctors, dentists, leisure centres and swimming pools and quite rightly so as we are 5 mins away from all these amenities. The problem is that the 5 minute crossing which is essential for all of these is so expensive that working families can’t afford to access any of these on a regular basis, a major disadvantage compared to the north isles right away especially when we have a very efficient ferry which uses a fraction of the fuel of any of the other ferries.
      As far as having a superior service we currently have a service that starts at 7am, no use for shift workers at the airports, sullom voe, the new gas plant and many other jobs in the hotel industry ect, another major disadvantage to bressay which desperately needs young working families to sustain a vibrant future.

    • Johan Adamson

      • August 27th, 2014 8:52

      I dont see why all the isles cant have free ferries, given they are all disadvantaged to a greater or lesser extent.

      Road equivalent tariff?

      • Ali Inkster

        • August 27th, 2014 16:13

        Don’t be silly reduced fares only apply to the Western Isles.

  • Johnny Smith

    • August 26th, 2014 18:11

    Although I was unable to attend the meeting, my main theme was for also for Free Ferries for all Bressay folk only, but with additional items like New Roads throughout the Island complete with footpaths and street lighting, Free for all daily bus service, Cheaper or Free electricity and much more besides. One thing we have here on Bressay is unoccupied land space (north-end and back of the ward) which can be used for harvesting wind power. Bressay alone could produce enough power to provide electricity via a second cable linking mainland Scotland. The rewards for the island will be astronomical, all of which will pay for the above mentioned. Perhaps Bressay could use some of these funds to provide a 24hr ferry service which will undoubtedly bring in more people to the Island and also create additional jobs throughout. There is an opportunity here for everyone on Bressay. At your next meeting, please consider these views as an ideal step forward and put a free for all Bressay in front of all others…

  • Neil Anderson

    • August 26th, 2014 19:07

    Ive got a great idea !

    Why don’t we build a fixed link to Bressay 🙂

  • Jonathan Wills

    • August 26th, 2014 19:12

    When the car ferry first came to Bressay some 40 years ago I seem to remember that, for a time, there were free fares for pedestrians. The logic behind this was that, unlike some other populous islands in Shetland, Bressay did not have a resident doctor or a health centre, secondary school a leisure centre – or a toll-free bridge. To use any of these facilities Bressay people had to travel to Lerwick. As they still do – plus the fact that we no longer have a primary school or a pub.
    While it seems unlikely that free fares will ever return, Bressay’s problems could be greatly eased, and more people attracted to live in the island, if we had a tunnel, even a toll tunnel. But tunnels are very expensive and it will be a while, I suspect, before council finances have recovered sufficiently to consider it.
    Much more affordable than a tunnel would be a chain ferry operating 20 hours a day. I have repeatedly suggested this over the past 14 years but for some reason councillors refuse to consider it seriously and now treat the suggestion with derision and hilarity. No-one has taken the trouble to visit the successful chain ferry operations at Poole Harbour and Torpoint on the Cornwall-Devon border, although some years ago I provided SIC transport officials with the contact details of people in those companies who were willing to advise us.
    The argument that a chain ferry would obstruct Lerwick Harbour’s operations is nonsense, as can be shown by the fact that the three Torpoint chain ferries run back and fore all day across the main channel leading to the Plymouth Royal Naval Dockyard, and the Poole Harbour ferry crosses one of the busiest yachting fairways in Britain.
    But I am wasting my breath…

  • Ross Gordon

    • August 26th, 2014 22:52

    Bressay has neither a fixed link or a chain ferry. Should a solution not be sought for the existing infrastructure?

  • Alan Skinner

    • August 26th, 2014 23:47

    I don’t often find myself on the same side of an argument as Doctor Wills, but the chain ferry to Bressay sounds an excellent idea and should be pursued by the council.

    Alan Skinner
    New House

  • Jackie Green

    • August 29th, 2014 7:24

    We have recently returned from spending a week staying on your beautiful island but I’m afraid we won’t be returning. Yes, we will be back in Shetland next year but will make sure that we stay on the main island because the ferry fares are extortionate! We had hired a car but to cut costs, we were leaving this on Bressay and travelling over as foot passengers. I don’t understand why the fares on this very short trip are the same as a much longer trip we made to Unst, via Yell, which obviously involves 2 ferries. It is such a shame because I think you would attract far more visitors to the island, should the fares be reduced 🙁

  • Andy Holt

    • August 29th, 2014 17:38

    Free ferries for Bressay. What a splendid idea. Here’s a better one. The families who decided to withdraw their children from the primary school show some community spirit and bring them back. When the school goes, something dies in a small community and no amount of development planning, committee meetings and grant applications can compensate.


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