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Letters / Benefits of travel voucher scheme curtailed by NorthLink’s shared cabin policy

I contacted one of my regional MSPs about the no sharing policy that Serco introduced and conveniently, for them, kept up after Covid.

I am a concessionary card holder which meant that I used to be able to book half a two-berth cabin and share with someone. I wasn’t expected to pay for the other half unless I requested the whole cabin to myself.

This meant, as I am sure most Shetland folk who travel with vouchers know, that I could get two free return trips a year. Now, NorthLink insist on me paying for the other half of the cabin. This is the response from Serco NorthLink:

“I can confirm that since early 2000 we have no longer offered shared cabins as a bookable option for passengers. There remains a 20% discount on standard rates for all Islander cabin fares on Aberdeen/Kirkwall/Lerwick routes and there is also the option of purchasing a sleeping pod.

“The individual passenger doesn’t need to use both vouchers, they could pay voucher & cash if they so wish, they could use a voucher for a Pod or they can book a reclining seat free of charge.

“The change was as you quite rightly identify was introduced during CV-19, initially as a consequence of our CV-19 Risk Assessed approach to maintaining service continuity during Covid and since confirmed as no longer being a bookable option. The use of vouchers is of course controlled by the TS Concessionary Policy Unit.”

They say the use of vouchers isn’t their responsibility, but they are the ones curtailing it so that I, and other concessions, can only get one free return trip instead of two. In this response they haven’t given their reasons for this.

Sleeping pods are ruled out for me as I have quite severe arthritis, and so is sleeping on the floor, something that I have heard many people say they have had to resort to as it’s preferable to the pods.

The Facebook group that helps folk team up to share cabins was a great innovation, but it shouldn’t have been necessary.

It would be good to have an explanation from Serco why they think this policy is necessary.

Debra Nicolson
Tresta

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