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Ferry timetable changes rejected by union

The Bigga arriving at Gutcher. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

PLANS to alter some public transport timetables in Shetland have been postponed at the eleventh hour after concerns were raised by inter-island ferry workers over changes to sailing times.

Unite regional officer John Boland said there had been “no consultation or discussion” by Shetland Islands Council with the union or its members over the changes, with would see some ferry workers on the North Isles routes start their day 15 minutes earlier.

Shetland’s transport partnership ZetTrans approved the timetable changes in July in an effort to ensure the public transport network more closely aligns with the new asymmetrical secondary school timetable.

Among the changes were making early morning Yell and Unst ferries leave 15 minutes earlier, meaning that the 6.15am departure from Gutcher would change to 6am, for example.

However, with secondary schools due to return back from summer holiday on Wednesday, Unite has forced more talks on the ferries issue.

“Our members have rejected these changes, and there is now going to be a period of discussion with the community councils to see if these changes are necessary,” Boland said on Monday.

The new asymmetrical secondary school timetable kicked off in May, changing the start and end times for pupils.

The timetable alterations also come as more pupils outside of Lerwick request to study at the new Anderson High School, with those asking to be placed there typically using public transport to get into town.

The objection to the ferry changes means that proposed knock-on alterations to a number of buses, such as service 23 from Toft, have also been postponed as a result.

ZetTrans lead officer Michael Craigie said: “We haven’t yet managed to get a full agreement with ferry crews and the unions on Yell Sound and Bluemull Sound, so we’ve postponed the induction of some of the services to allow that discussion to conclude.

“So it’s just a case of working through that now, and introducing the timetable changes when we’ve resolved that.”

He added that while the objection came a “bit later than we would have liked to have it happen”, it is hoped that the problem will be resolved in the next few weeks.

Changes to post-school bus timetables on services six, seven, 21 and 23 went ahead on Monday (20 August) as planned.