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Transport / Ferry voucher scheme to go move away from paper and go ‘smart’

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

THE CONCESSIONARY voucher scheme for the Northern Isles ferry service is set to move away from paper tickets in a bid to make the system more efficient.

The scheme, which provides eligible people with four vouchers for free foot passenger travel and to help pay towards a cabin, will have paper tickets replaced with a smartcard.

It will utilise a smartcard that is the same one used for free bus travel and which everyone who receives ferry vouchers will already have.

Transport Scotland said using a smartcard will provide better information about the journeys people use with vouchers, and assist ferry operators with data processing.

The updated service will first be rolled out in Shetland and Orkney before later going to the Western Isles.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said this will be fully rolled out in the coming months.

Vouchers are available to people aged 60+, disabled, registered volunteers under 26, or those aged 16 to 18.

An equality impact assessment for the change towards a smartcard said: “The need for the ferry voucher system to be modernised has been driven by a business requirement to mitigate challenges posed by the isles’ infrastructure (e.g. connectivity; postal access) and to improve the efficiency and integrity of the National Concessionary Travel Schemes.”

Transport Scotland said the process involves a digital app for people who have a smartphone, although staff at the ferry terminal should be able to assist if someone does not have a device or is not confident in using one.

Meanwhile staff at the Shetland Library in Lerwick are trained to support people who have questions about IT, or are without access.

They have received specific training in the new ferry voucher scheme and can help anyone with with issues.

There are drop-in IT sessions every Tuesday from 10am to 11am at the Lerwick library, while adult learning also have a drop in from 10am-12pm on Mondays, at the library, with no booking required.

Library staff can also help during normal opening hours but customers may have a little wait if it is busy.

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