A restricted inter-island ferry timetable will be introduced next week serving “critical” needs in isles’ communities.
The new timetable will be introduced from Monday, with the existing ferry booking and account payments systems extended to all journeys. Environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said the move was necessary but was designed to “maintain and support community resilience”.
The council says it has consulted widely with communities, key services and businesses as well as NHS Shetland and the emergency services in planning the revised schedule which aims to “protect vital journeys for essential workers and support local business”.
Each route has been looked at individually. Ferry users have also been reminded that only essential travel should be made under the current restrictions due to coronavirus.
On Yell Sound it has been decided that daytime sailings were important to serve businesses in the North Isles. However, the service will now finish earlier with the last sailing from Toft at 6.55pm.
According to the SIC website, the Bluemull timetable has focused on maintaining connections to support aquaculture, care services and local retailers as well as allowing essential travel to Mainland Shetland. A similar approach has been taken in assessing the needs of the Whalsay ferry service.
The Bressay crossing “is designed to support travel to essential work and to essential shopping and medical care and pharmacies”.
Those who must use ferries while travel restrictions are in place must set up an account with the ferry service. Afterwards, bookings should be made online or by phone.
Mr Thomson said: “Firstly, I’d like to thank all our island communities for their support during this difficult time.
“Government guidance is very clear on the need for as many people as possible to ‘stay at home’, but there are key workers as well as critical businesses and services who do need to use our ferries.
“We have known for some time that we would need to move to a basic timetable to make sure we could maintain the wider network, and we’ve been consulting widely to make sure this new system maintains and supports community resilience.
“We have identified the critical need in each area, with the new timetables designed to support these, and we will continue to monitor and assess that need; moving to an entirely online booking system will also help us do that. Our ferries will also be available to support the emergency services should they need to travel.”
Anyone who needs to set up a new account, or who has any questions should contact the ferry booking office on 01595 745804 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org