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News / More people on the ferries again

PASSENGER numbers on NorthLink’s ferries have started to recover, according to the lifeline ferry service provider.

Serco NorthLink Ferries said it recorded an increase in passenger and car volumes since the move to phase three of the Scottish Government’s route map out of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Passenger numbers on board the NorthLink Ferries dropped by 80 per cent between 22 March and the end of August. Photo: NorthLink Ferries

While passenger numbers dropped by 80 per cent to just 43,918 between 22 March and 31 August, the decrease was slowed to just 56 per cent in August when 23,060 passengers travelled on board the company’s three ferries.

The number of cars fell during these periods by 74 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile freight volumes have held up strongly, according to the company. Freight lane meterage was recorded at 220,227 from 22 March to 31 August, a 16 per cent reduction year-on-year.

In August, however, there were 49,211 lane metres recorded which is only a five per cent reduction on the 51,816 recorded in the same month last year.

Serco’s managing director of NorthLink Ferries Stuart Garrett said volumes had started to increase again since about mid-July.

“This remains, of course, a challenging operating environment, and we continue to proceed with caution,” he said.

“While our capacity is at an increased level from the levels in Phase 1 and 2, it remains constrained to ensure appropriate physical distancing, while we continue to review and manage our service offering.”

NorthLink services are operating on their normal timetable. In order to ensure social distancing, the capacity on the two ferries serving Shetland has been reduced to 335.

Passenger travel on the freighters Helliar and Hildasay is currently suspended.

The company plans to open its 2021 booking system at the beginning of October.

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