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Transport / Ferry and flight studies to be presented in coming months

Council ferries are currently cash-only, but moves are being made to bring card and contactless payments on board.

THE FUTURE shape of Shetland’s inter-island ferry and flight networks could become clearer in the coming weeks and months when findings from studies into service levels and infrastructure are presented.

Staff at Shetland Islands Council and isles transport partnership ZetTrans have been working for months with consultants on outline business cases for ferries and flights which will give recommendations on how the networks could be run in the future.

Among the business cases is an examination of the inter-island flight network and whether Tingwall Airport remains a suitable base for flights.

There has also been work into ferry service levels and recommended vessel and harbour infrastructure solutions for Fair Isle and Whalsay.

It comes against a backdrop where the council is needing to find savings of around £15.6 million over the next four to five years.

ZetTrans lead officer Michael Craigie told a meeting of the transport partnership on Thursday that the outline business cases should be presented in the next six to 10 weeks.

“The combination of these reports will provide the most up to date evidence to support the case to be used in the continued work with Transport Scotland and Scottish Government to establish a long term position on the funding and delivery of inter-island ferry services and infrastructure requirements,” he wrote in a report to members.

Craigie added that while the ferry and flight work have been undertaken separately, they are “highly integrated and the conclusions of the two studies deliver a network of complementary recommendations to achieve the optimum balance of services where appropriate”.

In addition to ferries and flights, the council and ZetTrans are also working on a business case covering public bus, school and adult social care transport.

The main reason behind this is bus contracts coming to an end in August 2020 – but it is also hoped that money can be saved through redesigning the service.

ZetTrans chairman Ryan Thomson said the ferry and air business cases are intended to ensure the provision meets the needs of island communities.

“The outline business cases for Fair Isle and Whalsay and the inter-island air services review are designed to make sure that the services that they provide the islanders, meet the needs of the islanders,” he said after the meeting.

“The ferry service for Whalsay – make sure that that meets the needs of the community and the islanders, as well as the inter-island air service as well for Fair Isle, Foula and Papa Stour, to make sure that is fit for purpose and meets the needs of the islanders as well.”