Failure to open NorthLink’s summer bookings is ‘harming tourism’

Transport bosses are being urged to open NorthLink bookings for the summer season amid warnings their delays are harming tourism.

Lerwick Community Council agreed last night (Monday) to write to Transport Scotland highlighting their concerns that no bookings could be made beyond 31st March.

Transport Scotland has since confirmed it had needed extra time to decide ferry fares for 2023 due to the current high inflation rate and ongoing cost of living crisis.

Chairman Jim Anderson said the delays posed concerns “whether it be Shetlanders trying to get south or tourists trying to get here”.

Mr Anderson said it was important for events such as the folk festival and the whole of the summer season, which will see Lerwick host the Tall Ships Races.

Councillor Stewart Hay added that 2023 could be an “absolutely vital year” for tourism.

“People are now thinking about coming but they can’t make a booking,” he added.

Mr Hay said the same problems were affecting CalMac services on the west coast.

“So you have all Scottish islands caught in a position where they are unable to realise their desire of bringing people here and showcasing the islands is utterly impossible,” he added.

Steve Mathieson, who was attending on behalf of VisitScotland, said Transport Scotland had not given any indication of when the new timetable might be available.

Councillor Brian Harris said the government body seemed to “have no conception of the difficulties that causes”.

The comments were made during discussions to the SIC’s draft regional transport strategy, which includes mention of “enhancing external connections”.

Mr Hay suggested there was a “gross disparity” between the council’s proposals and the reality of what could be achieved through Transport Scotland.

“We expend energy on going through the vision and the proposals but they all end up at odds with the decisions of Transport Scotland, who say there is no money for new ferries,” he added.

While he said the council’s survey was “perfectly good” he said it “all comes unstuck if Transport Scotland are saying none of this can happen”.

“It seems like we are in one world and Transport Scotland are in another,” he added.

Mr Anderson acknowledged the concerns but said it would be “wrong to sit on our hands”.

Instead, he suggested that at least by completing the survey it would provide the government with “tangible” evidence about the transport situation.

“Yes, they might tell us to go away, but at least we’ve done it,” he said.

Transport Scotland said in a statement:  “We want our transport system to be affordable and accessible.

“A decision on ferry fares for 2023 requires some additional time and consideration given the current high inflation rate and ongoing cost of living crisis.

“We fully appreciate the need to get bookings released for Easter and summer timetables so that businesses and individuals can plan ahead.

“We are working with both our operators to confirm fares and release bookings from April as soon as possible.”


Add Your Comment
  • Kendrick Hutchinson

    • January 10th, 2023 18:39

    I would like to add my concern about the inability to book the ferry beyond March. We have a holiday cottage booked in Lerwick for July and need the certainty of being able to book a cabin both ways. Past experience has shown there’s a need to book the ferry at least six months ahead inorder to secure a cabin. We enjoy the NorthLink ferries but not knowing if we can get a booking is proving stressful.


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