Free Shetland ferries discussed by SIC

It was a short but still informative meeting of SICs Zetland Transport Partnership (ZetTrans) this morning, 24th March, with public transport initiatives, including free travel, on the agenda.

Just four items were discussed, the first being the budget which will require an additional contribution of £239k from Shetland Islands Council to balance its books, £278k for Covid-19 impacts that is in part offset by a £39k underspend from non-Covid-19 impacted activities.

It also includes a provision to freeze bus fares which councillor Davie Sandison said would “encourage things to get back to normal and people can start utilizing our services when they can do so”.

The future of public transport on the isles was also up for debate with much of the meeting revolving around public transport provisions, costing of the services and the delicate balance between transport options and climate considerations.

Free for all, or concession rates for ferry and bus rides were discussed at length. Currently no local authority in the UK offers free bus services to all, and the merits of such a scheme were debated at length.

The implementation of services and operational costs were a factor but the lack of administrative and bureaucratic costs for a free for all scheme were touted as offsetting those costs.

Michael Craige, head of transport, said: “We have an opportunity from the ground up to think about transport in Shetland. It is quite interesting and exciting how we could do things in the future.”

For a full report see this week’s Shetland Times, out on Friday.


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