Serco NorthLink Ferries reveals passenger numbers for first two months of 2021
24th March 2021
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.
During the period 5 January to 15 March, passenger numbers across all routes were 8,074 compared with 21,282 over the same period in 2020, a reduction of 62 per cent. Car volumes for January and February were recorded at 2,214 which represented a 58 per cent reduction on the 5,220 in 2020.
Of those journeys, 42 per cent were undertaken by key workers and 32 per cent was classed as islander necessary travel. The next highest category was essential visitor travel at 11.5 per cent followed by NHS travel (patients and staff) which represented 9.4 per cent of journeys.
Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly. Freight lane meterage was recorded at 78,588 since the start of the year, a five per cent increase on the same period in 2020.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "NorthLink Ferries remains proud to play our part in ensuring both inward goods and essential export markets from Shetland and Orkney have been well served over this period whilst ensuring that those who need to travel can do so safely. We also again thank our customers for their adherence to the physical distancing requirements and COVID-19 protocols both within our terminals and onboard all our vessels."
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.
Passengers travelling with NorthLink Ferries will be challenged as to their reason for travel, both at the time of booking and at the port of embarkation.
Passenger travel on the MV Helliar and MV Hildasay remains suspended to ensure resilience is maintained on these lifeline freight services, particularly with significant capital project works underway.
Bookings can be made at www.northlinkferries.co.uk or by calling 0845 6000 449.
MV Hamnavoe - Photographer John Hay
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 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.