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Transport / Relief as NorthLink ferry bookings opened up beyond end of March

NorthLink passenger ferry Hjaltland berthing at Holmsgarth. Photo: Shetland News

PEOPLE can now book trips on the NorthLink ferry service from April to the end of December.

There has been significant frustration that bookings have only been open until the end of March for a number of months.

However, after a fare rise was confirmed earlier this week operator Serco NorthLink has now opened up bookings for the spring and beyond.

Billy Robb, customer service director for NorthLink Ferries, said: “We are pleased to be able to open our booking system up to December 2024, allowing people to book travel in spring, summer and beyond, both to and from Shetland and Orkney.

“Last year’s passenger numbers show how popular the Northern Isles are with visitors, and we look forward to continuing to support the tourism sector while providing the lifeline service for islanders.”

Fares on the Northern Isles ferry service, which is contracted to Serco NorthLink by government agency Transport Scotland, will rise by 8.7 per cent.

It comes after rates were previously frozen instead of rising in line with inflation.

The Scottish Government said the rise also came against the “backdrop of a real terms reduction in the total block grant from the UK Government”.

It was called an example of “greedflation” by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

Shetland councillor Moraig Lyall, who leads on transport issues, said she was “shocked” by the level of increase.

“As household incomes continue to feel the pressure of rising costs this will be an unwelcome additional burden for families looking to travel,” she said.

“Our local industry already operates with significantly higher costs than the rest of the country, so this just adds to their difficulties in remaining competitive or even viable in some cases.

“The Scottish Government fare review is due out soon and we need for it to address the issue of affordability for both individuals and businesses to protect jobs and households here in Shetland from the impacts this uplift will bring.”

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