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Transport / Account-only payments and restricted timetables for inter-island ferries

The Yell ferry Dagalien. Photo: SIC

NO CASH or multi-journey ticket payments will be taken onboard Shetland’s inter-island ferries from next week, with an accounts system being introduced for all fares instead.

Ferries across Shetland will also run to restricted timetables from Monday (6 April) onwards.

The change in how payments are made comes after local health professionals expressed concern that fares were still being collected by staff on board the ferries during the coronavirus outbreak.

In emails seen by Shetland News, concern was raised that staff were still going from car to car to collect fares, with cash an option.

They said that unnecessary contact between the ferry crew and passengers should be kept to an “absolute minimum” – adding that collection of fares was not necessary contact.

Shetland Islands Council confirmed on Thursday that payments would now shift to accounts-only from Monday, meaning that all trips will have to be pre-booked.

The council said it had also consulted widely with communities, local services and businesses all well as NHS Shetland to form new restricted timetables tailored for each island.

The ferries had already been restricted to essential travel only in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The main timetable reductions will be around cutting back on evening travel.

The changes will be reviewed regularly to ensure they continue to meet core needs, and those reviews will also consider when these restricted timetable arrangements may no longer be required, the SIC said.

Those who must use the ferries during this period of travel restriction need to set up an account with the ferry service, if they have not already done so.  Afterwards, bookings should be made online or by phone.

Once the account has been set up the council will send out an account card.

The requirement to pre-book will be made on all ferries including Bressay, which has not had bookings previously.

Details of pre-booked customers will be downloaded by ferry crews, and pre-booked passengers and vehicles will be checked off the list as they board.

They will then use their contactless account cards to confirm their journey and receive their ticket.

Passengers will be billed for the journeys they have made.

Chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee and the transport partnership ZetTrans Ryan Thomson said: “Firstly, I’d like to thank all our island communities for their support during this difficult time.

“Government guidance is very clear on the need for as many people as possible to ‘stay at home’, but there are key workers as well as critical businesses and services who do need to use our ferries.

“We have known for some time that we would need to move to a basic timetable to make sure we could maintain the wider network, and we’ve been consulting widely to make sure this new system maintains and supports community resilience.

“We have identified the critical need in each area, with the new timetables designed to support these, and we will continue to monitor and assess that need; moving to an entirely online booking system will also help us do that.

“Our ferries will also be available to support the emergency services should they need to travel.

“Anyone who needs to set up a new account, or who has any questions about the new system, should contact the ferry booking office on 01595 745804 or by emailing ferries.admin@shetland.gov.uk ”

More details on all of the changes can be found online.