THE CONTROVERSIAL breakfast charge and the new sleeping on the northern isles ferries are paying off, according to operator Serco NorthLink.
Managing director Stuart Garrett said this week that revenue from sales on board the Hjaltland and Hrossey were up by more than 20 per cent.
Ferry fares meanwhile are to increase by 2.7 per cent as of 1 January 2014, in line with inflation.
Garrett also gave the dates for the two ferries being in dry dock this spring, but said neither will be out of action throughout 2015. The Hjaltland will be out of service from 1 to 19 February, and the Hrossey from 27 February to 15 March.
Garrett told a meeting of the Shetland external transport forum on Monday that he now had “empirical evidence” to demonstrate that the company’s £1 million investment in refurbishing both passenger vessels had been a success.
The company was severely criticised by local people in spring this year after it implemented a new on board price structure, installed ‘sleeping pods’ and added more reclining seats.
A uniform charge of around £10 for a cooked breakfast has proved particularly controversial, but on Monday Garrett said breakfast takings were up 33 per cent.
The 36 sleeping pods had also proved popular “in terms of price and freeing up cabin space”, especially on Monday and Friday nights.
June and July had so far been the best months when on average 24 of the 36 pods were in use on a nightly basis.
In addition the company has sold around 800 tokens for the newly provided public showers on board.
Garrett said: “I believe that our figures demonstrate that the introduction of the pods has indeed freed up cabins for bed utilisation, and likewise we believe that the additional reclining seats opposite the shop and in the bar area have been well received.
“We have quite radically changed the breakfast offer, we introduced free children breakfasts for paying adults, and particularly for islanders that is extremely good value.
“For anybody travelling with children it takes away all the hassle about affordability and who wants what. It is simple and we now have evidence that it works.”
He added: “We believe we have reduced the waiting time for cabins. They can now be used from Kirkwall going north or south.
“I think that is very positive, and all in all, the team on board the ships is very much focused in on delivering the customer service that I would expect us to be delivering.”
The company’s data also showed that passenger numbers very slightly up compared to last year, a reflection of the isles’ buoyant economy and continued attraction as a holiday destination, Garrett said.
NorthLink’s 2014 timetable is now available on the company’s website at www.northlinkferries.co.uk
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