News / NorthLink’s booking system updated as government announces three month freeze of ferry fares

NorthLink passenger ferry Hjaltland arriving into Lerwick Harbour. Photo: Shetland News

FOLLOWING weeks of frustration NorthLink’s booking system has finally been updated to allow people to plan and book journeys beyond December of this year.

Bookings are now open until the 31 March, which will enable islanders and those planning to visit Shetland and Orkney over the Festive Period to at least book their journeys home.

There is no word as to when the booking system will open beyond the end of March 2023 other than work on ferry fares as 1 April is ongoing and will be outlined in due course.

Transport Scotland confirmed on Monday afternoon that ferry fares will stay unchanged until the end of March to help combat the cost of living crisis.

Islanders turned to social media over recent days and weeks to vent their anger that any forward journey planning was impossible as NorthLink’s website didn’t allow bookings beyond the end of the year.


Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said the issue was one of immense frustration and appears to be an annual occurrence.

She said it undermined any attempts by islanders asked to plan their journeys well ahead into the future to ensure they are able to book a cabin and their car on the same ferry.

She said she has had numerous calls from constituents wondering why NorthLink wouldn’t allow any bookings in 2023.

However, it’s down to the Scottish Government to confirm timetabling and set the following year’s ferry fares for the lifeline service, which they have done now.

Wishart said: “This is better but still not good enough. Islanders want to book their Easter holidays, and visitors trying to come north for the summer and to see the tall Ships are still not able to make their plans.”

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Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said: “At a time where many people are facing rising costs in all areas of their lives – from heating their homes to the cost of the weekly shop – the Scottish Government is working hard to help them where we can.

“We want our transport system to be affordable and accessible. This is especially important for island residents and communities who rely on our lifeline ferry services, so we are freezing fares on the Northern Isles network until the end of March.

“In the longer term, the Islands Connectivity Plan will include a review of ferry fares, alongside our wider “fair fares” review, to ensure that our fares policy continues to address the needs of island communities.”

Wishart responded by saying that island residents were relying on an affordable and accessible ferry service and islanders were rightly concerned about any increase in ferry fares comes April 2023.

NorthLink said the company would not comment.

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