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Transport / NorthLink passenger numbers down 94 per cent

Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

PASSENGER numbers on NorthLink’s ferries have reduced by around 94 per cent since the service was restricted in March to essential travel only in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Between 22 March and 30 April 2,025 passengers travelled on all of NorthLink’s routes – a vast reduction on 33,005 during the same period in 2019.

NorthLink, however, has also been running a reduced timetable since early April.

There were also 798 vehicles on board the ferries during the period, a reduction from 8,516 in 2019.

Freight volumes have recorded an overall decrease of 21 per cent.

More than 7,000 bookings have been cancelled to date during the Covid-19 lockdown period resulting in a reduction of 22,335 passengers across all services.

This has led to over £2.7 million in refunds being processed.

To date, 29 passengers have been refused travel under the lockdown criteria over the NorthLink Ferries routes.

The company – which is contracted by the Scottish Government to run the Northern Isles services – is challenging those not deemed as essential passengers and are denying boarding unless passengers meet the criteria of a key worker or an islander with a need to travel.

Serco’s managing director of NorthLink Ferries Stuart Garrett said: “We are currently running an essential lifeline service between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland and so it was expected that we would see a steep decline in numbers.

“We’re thanking passengers for their understanding and co-operation at this time and do remind them that by staying at home they are helping to keep themselves and others safe, particularly as we approach this bank holiday weekend.”