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Transport / Wishart demands action on £42 cabin ‘surcharge’

MSP Beatrice Wishart says Transport Scotland don't understand the realities of overnight travel. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND MSP Beatrice Wishart has called on the Scottish Government to step in and instruct Transport Scotland to stop allowing NorthLink to charge a £42 ‘surcharge’ for the single use of a cabin on the overnight ferry journey to and from Aberdeen.

The Lib Dem MSP said several constituents had been in touch after having been charged extra when the use of shared cabins on the lifeline service was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NorthLink accused of penalising islanders over cabin charges while social distancing rules remain in place

After correspondence with Transport Scotland she criticised the government agency for failing to understand the realities of overnight ferry travel.

In a response to the MSP Transport Scotland said: “Given the suspension of the shared cabin fare offer, Serco NorthLink have continued to offer a variety of accommodation options at various price points including pod lounges, recliners and cabins for those wishing to utilise them.

“Customers can still use their NCT ferry voucher for free passenger travel and to offset the cost of cabins for sole use.

“The practice has not been instituted as referenced to provide a ‘surcharge’ for those travelling during the current Covid-19 situation, but to continue to provide discounted travel to islanders during this period.”

Wishart said islanders should not be made to pay for the empty bed in a single-use cabin since bus passengers are also not required to pay for the empty seat next to them.

“While a civil servant in Edinburgh may not regard the suspension of the shared cabin offer and the consequent additional payment of £42 as a “surcharge”, the constituents who have been in touch with me certainly do,” she said.

“It’s right the use of shared cabins has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s entirely wrong that islanders are being forced to pay extra for a measure that’s been put in place to keep passengers safe. Train and bus passengers are not expected to pay for the empty seat next to them.

“It is ridiculous to offer people who normally travel in a shared cabin the alternative of a pod or recliner chair for an overnight crossing.

“The Scottish Government needs to step in and ensure that islanders who are entitled to concessionary travel can make full use of their entitlement to a free berth in a cabin on overnight services.”