Serco NorthLink Ferries publishes passenger volumes across first phases of lockdown
15th July 2020
Serco NorthLink Ferries has been operating a revised service during Phase 1 and 2 of lockdown, which has provided travel for key workers as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland.
During the period 22 March to 30 June, passenger numbers across all routes were 6,010 in comparison to 112,416 over the same period in 2019, representing a reduction of 95 per cent.
From mid-April, there were 4,863 journeys for declared essential travel - with 42 per cent of those being key workers in sectors including energy, fishing, aquaculture, telecoms, utilities and agriculture. In addition, islander travel accounted for 1,338 journeys with reasons for travel including caring, returning students and family-related issues. NHS travel - whether staff or patients - accounted for 14 per cent of travel in this period and a total of 665 journeys.
Across the wider 22 March - 30 June period, vehicles were recorded at 2,205 – down from 31,078 in 2019 which is 93 per cent lower. Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have been strong but still recorded a 16 per cent decrease, while there was a reduction in freight lane meterage of 34,325 since 22 March – a 21 per cent decrease compared to the same period last year.
A total of 10,004 bookings were cancelled during the period, representing a reduction of 35,101 passengers across all services. This has led to more than £4.2m in refunds being processed. 70 passengers were refused travel during Phase 1 and 2 of lockdown as they did not meet the criteria for travel.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "In line with Phase 3 of the Scottish Government's roadmap out of the COVID-19 crisis, all passengers are now able to travel on our routes with capacity increased, but still curtailed, on our vessels.
"We are proud to have provided an essential service between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland during this national emergency, which had an understandable and expected impact on passenger volume.
"Due to the proactive approach we took during this period with cancellations, we were able to ensure capacity was available at all times for those eligible to travel under government guidelines. Our analysis shows we supported a range of key sectors during this period, while also providing essential travel for islanders and NHS staff and patients.
"While we expect passenger numbers to rise during the weeks ahead, particularly with the re-opening of the tourist industry, we would remind passengers to continue to exercise caution."
NorthLink Ferries' services are operating on their normal timetable. Assessments have been carried out to ensure appropriate physical distancing can be maintained, which in turn has allowed capacity to be increased. On the MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, capacity is now set at 335 while on the MV Hamnavoe it is set at 370.
Passenger travel on the MV Helliar and MV Hildasay remains suspended to ensure extra resilience is maintained on these lifeline freight services.
Bookings can be made at www.northlinkferries.co.uk or by calling 0845 6000 449.
PHOTO - MV Hamnavoe passing the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney
Serco NorthLink Ferries recorded more than 8,000 journeys during the start of 2021 as it continues to support essential travel. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, with NorthLink Ferries providing key worker, essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland.
Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to maintain vital transport links over the autumn and winter period - following the opening of its 2021 booking system at the start of October. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, and while passenger and car volumes are down significantly year-on-year they have shown further signs of strengthening over the last few months.
Four-legged friends can now travel with their owners between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland - thanks to new pet-friendly cabins on NorthLink Ferries passenger vessels MV Hamnavoe, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey. Each ship has two pet-friendly cabins available which have en-suite facilities, side-by-side lower twin bunks and tea and coffee making facilities.
Serco NorthLink Ferries continues to request that travellers stay at home and help to save lives as the company was forced to refuse travel to 23 passengers since 22 March. As part of the national effort to deal with the current public health crisis, NorthLink Ferries has been monitoring passengers' reasons for travelling, which are captured during the booking process, and denying travel to or from the Northern Isles to those who disclose non-essential reasons.
A new temporary timetable has been introduced by Serco NorthLink Ferries, designed to continue to provide a lifeline service between mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles whilst reflecting travel demand during the COVID-19 outbreak. In line with advice from the Scottish Government and health officials, restrictions have been implemented in recent weeks to allow only necessary travel, resulting in a significant reduction in passenger numbers.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority and since the outset of COVID-19 we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety. We have followed relevant guidelines and advice from the Government and health officials and continue to do so.
The MV Hamnavoe is due to be in dry dock from 13th to 26th January 2020 (inclusive), and there will be additional north and southbound calls into Kirkwall by the MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland. During this time the MV Helliar will provide a replacement service on the Pentland Firth route.
Serco, the international service company, has been selected as preferred bidder to continue managing and operating the lifeline Northern Isles Ferry Services for passengers and freight between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, providing essential access and supplies for the islanders. The outcome of the tender was announced by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands to The Scottish Parliament this morning.
Company is first Scottish transport operator to introduce pioneering support service. Serco NorthLink Ferries has partnered with one of Scotland's digital start-ups to improve journeys for customers who require additional support.
Visitors to some of Scotland's main agricultural shows this summer could win free travel to the Northern Isles on board Serco NorthLink Ferries. Anyone stopping by the company's stand at the Royal Highland Show, Caithness Show, Turriff Show or Isles Shows will be able to enter a prize draw for a trip on board its vessels.