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Council / Saturday ferry timetable ‘inadequate’, councillor warns

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

A NORTH Isles councillor has called for a consultation to be carried out on the Saturday ferry timetable linking Yell, Unst and Fetlar after congestion on the service following last week’s fire in the engine room of the Daggri.

Ryan Thomson, who also chairs the council’s environment and transport committee, said the difficulties highlighted that the timetable is “inadequate”.

He has requested that Shetland Islands Council undertakes a consultation with community councils in Yell, Unst and Fetlar to review the Saturday timetable.

Services were disrupted last week when a fire took place in the engine room of the Yell ferry Daggri.

While it was taken out of service, the Bluemull Sound – linking Yell, Unst and Fetlar – was reduced to a single vessel service on a Saturday timetable while its usual ferry Bigga covered on the Yell Sound route.

Capacity issues were exacerbated as the Daggri’s sister ship Dagalien, one of the council’s largest vessels, was already out of service having a refit.

During the disruption the Yell Sound routes were covered on a normal timetable with reduced capacity using the Bigga and the relief ferry Fivla.

On the day of the fire a shuttle service was provided using the Fivla between Toft and Yell.

Thomson praised the ferry crews for containing the fire without any danger to the public or staff, and for the way they dealt with subsequent congestion.

But the councillor said he has “requested to the director of infrastructure that we undertake a review of the decisions made to see if, all be it unlikely, such a similar occurrence were to happen again, if there is anything we would and could do differently”.

“The congestion across both Yell Sound and Bluemull Sound last week was unprecedented,” Thomson said.

“The ferry crews did an excellent job, and ran a shuttle service whenever possible. I have received nothing but positive feedback for the job they did in difficult circumstances.

“However, this sort of incident highlights the fragility of the internal ferry service and how much Unst, Yell and Fetlar residents and businesses depend on the bigger vessels.

“We are at peak capacity on both Bluemull and Yell Sound with all our largest vessels available and in service. Equally so on the Whalsay route, particularly at bottleneck times.

“In particular, I had a lot of feedback on the inadequacy of the Saturday timetable, in particular frequency and a lack of connections with the Yell Sound ferry.

“I believe in consultation with the Unst, Yell and Fetlar community councils. A redesigned Saturday timetable for Bluemull Sound could be achieved which would benefit all islands at no extra cost to the council purse.”