NorthLink Ferries has suffered a massive 96 per cent reduction in passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 7,000 (7,093) bookings have been cancelled to date during the lockdown period, resulting in a reduction of 22,335 passengers across all services. This has led to processing over £2.7 million in refunds.
However, key worker travel as well as essential islander and freight connectivity was being provided between the Northern Isles and the mainland, Serco managing director Stuart Garrett reiterated.
Between 22nd March, when a revised service was introduced, and the end of April, passenger numbers were significantly reduced and reflected the effectiveness of the application of the Scottish government’s lockdown criteria, Mr Garrett said.
Passenger numbers across all routes this year, from 22nd March to 30th April, were 2,025 in comparison to 33,005 over the same period in 2019.
Vehicles were recorded at 798 – a reduction from 8,516 in 2019 (91 per cent). Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly. however. Freight saw an overall decrease of 21 per cent, with recorded lane meterage of 50,195 versus 63,513 last year.
Mr Garrett said: “We are currently running an essential lifeline service between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland and so it was expected that we would see a steep decline in numbers.
“We’re thanking passengers for their understanding and co-operation at this time and do remind them that by staying at home they are helping to keep themselves and others safe, particularly as we approach this bank holiday weekend.”
To date, 29 passengers have been refused travel under the lockdown criteria over the NorthLink routes. The company is challenging those not deemed as essential passengers and are denying boarding unless passengers meet the criteria of a key worker or an islander with a need to travel.