Serco NorthLink Ferries provides update on latest travel figures
7th December 2020
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.
During the period 22 March to 30 November, passenger numbers across all routes were 80,804 compared with 296,716 over the same period in 2019, a reduction of 71 per cent.
In November specifically, passenger numbers were at 7,410 compared to 16,049 in the same month in 2019 - a reduction of 54 per cent.
Car volumes from 22 March to 30 November were recorded at 30,317 which represented a 61 per cent reduction on the 78,550 recorded in the same period in 2019. In November, car volumes were at 2,699 compared to 4,182 in 2019, a reduction of 35 per cent.
Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have remained strong. Freight lane meterage was recorded at 392,823 from 22 March to 30 November, a nine per cent decrease year-on-year. In November, volumes shipped were four per cent higher than the previous year - with 53,299 lane metres recorded compared with 51,294 in the same month last year.
Since travel restrictions were first introduced in March, there have been 21,846 cabins and 2,645 pods used, a reduction on figures of 57,675 and 14,068 in the equivalent period in 2019. In November, 2,592 cabins were used compared to 4,532 in November 2019.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "As we get closer to Christmas we continue to see reduced footfall but are heartened by the strengthening of passenger and car volumes which has continued throughout autumn.
"We're particularly pleased to have been able to support another successful livestock season with freight volumes holding up particularly strongly throughout the crisis.
"With our 2021 booking system now open, we look forward to a return towards normality but in the meantime are continuing our cautious approach to service delivery. We would strongly advise anyone considering travelling over the festive period to only to do so if it is line with public health guidelines, while being mindful of potential shifts in restrictions across different council areas."
NorthLink Ferries services are operating on their normal timetable. Assessments have been carried out to ensure appropriate physical distancing can be maintained, with capacity set at 335 on the MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, and 290 on MV Hamnavoe.
Passenger travel on the MV Helliar and MV Hildasay remains suspended to ensure resilience is maintained on these lifeline freight services. In autumn 2020, NorthLink Ferries carried 98,332 sheep and 8,754 cattle, representing an increase in sheep and a small decrease in cattle compared to 2019 figures.
Bookings can be made at www.northlinkferries.co.uk or by calling 0845 6000 449.
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.
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 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.
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.