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Transport / All islanders aged under 22 to receive NorthLink ferry vouchers

The ferry voucher scheme will extend from 16 to 18 year olds to everyone under under 22

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

A SCHEME giving some free NorthLink ferry travel to 16 to 18 year old islanders will be extended to all young people under 22.

The news was announced at the Scottish Greens’ annual conference this weekend.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie confirmed that the Scottish Government has agreed to work with ferry operators to expand the scope of the ferry travel schemes which operates on Northern Isles and west coast services.

Under the current scheme 16-18 year olds are entitled to four one-way vouchers a year, like other concessions are, or two return – as well as eligible full-time volunteers up to the age of 26.

They can be used for travel as a foot passenger or to help pay for a cabin.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has previously raised frustration that two vouchers are needed to book an individual cabin following the removal of shared cabins.

Guidance from government agency Transport Scotland says: “The difference between shared cabin cost and full cabin cost on a sole occupancy basis should be covered by customers at the time of booking. Customers may also choose to use two vouchers in payment for sole use of a cabin.”

The voucher scheme is going to be extended to all islanders under 16 and those aged 19-21.

Currently people aged between five and 15 get ferry trips for around half price, although this does not include the price of any on board accommodation. Children aged below five get free fares.

It comes after the Scottish Greens helped to push through legislation giving all under 22s free bus travel in the country.

But chair of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Moraig Lyall said there continues to be a need for inter-island ferries to be included in the under-22 scheme.

“While any little help for families is welcome, it is somewhat short of what we have been seeking from the transport minister which is the extension of the free bus travel for under 22s to ferries to bring those for whom a ferry is their daily mode of transport into line with those who rely on buses,” she said.

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Harvie said: “With today’s announcement we are taking a significant step forwards in recognising the circumstances of young people on the islands.

“I am delighted that we are extending the current National Ferry Travel Scheme from its current coverage of 16-18 year olds to all U-22s. It is an important step towards recognising the travel needs of young islanders and opening up the country.”

Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said: “Ferries are an essential part of Scotland’s transport network, providing a vital lifeline for island residents. I’m pleased that more young people will soon be able to benefit from this initiative, saving them money during the cost crisis.”

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