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Bus and ferry changes given green light

A NUMBER of changes to Shetland’s bus and ferry timetables have been approved by the isles’ transport partnership.

ZetTrans members met on Friday morning to discuss alterations proposed to ensure the public transport network aligns with the new asymmetrical secondary school timetable.

The new school timetable kicked off in May, making days from Monday-Thursday slightly longer and Fridays shorter.

There has also been a “marked increase” in the number of youngsters from the north and south mainland who have requested to study at the new Anderson High School in Lerwick, with officials hoping that the timetable alternations will help to broaden the range of studying options for locals.

Among the changes proposed were earlier starts for the North Isles ferries.

There had been some concern that the new timetable would leave people waiting an hour at Toft in the morning, particularly for Sullom Voe Terminal shift workers heading home to the North Isles.

But members backed an idea to move a proposed 6.30am sailing from from Toft to Ulsta to 6.35am, which Sullom night shift workers believe they will manage to catch.

Shetland Islands Council’s transport manager Michael Craigie said as far as he was aware, there was now “nobody left with a negative impact” from the alternations.

ZetTrans vice-chairman councillor Robbie McGregor said Sullom Voe workers themselves being involved in the consultation process, as well as community councils, was a “good example” of local democracy at work.

A number of bus services will also be moved, with the service 23 to Lerwick for example due to leave Toft at 7.22am instead of the current time of 7.37am.

There will also be some changes to the service six bus, which would arrive at Sumburgh Airport at 4.58pm instead of 4.37pm, for example.

ZetTrans chairman Ryan Thomson paid tribute to the work done to link together timetables, as there was a “domino effect” at play.

A report presented by Craigie said the proposed alterations would cost £33,000 a year in additional contract costs for buses, and £14,000 per annum for ferry adjustments.

This is attributed to the likes of extra wages for running earlier services, rather than any new additional journeys.

The extra costs would be funded by resources from the children’s services department.

Shetland central councillor Davie Sandison questioned if the cost pressures could be mitigated by finding efficiencies in the next bus contract, which is due to come into force next year, with Craigie stating that business cases are ongoing with regard to the isles’ bus network.

The alterations to the bus and ferry timetables, meanwhile, are further to those previously approved in March ahead of the new school timetable being implemented.