New ferry contract to be awarded in March
THE NEXT contract to operate the Northern Isles Ferry Services will be awarded to Serco NorthLink Ferries by the end of March, the Scottish Government has announced.
Transport Scotland has now completed its engagement with the European Commission in relation to outstanding state aid issues. CalMac Ferries has also withdrawn its legal action, a statement said.
In order to complete the award process and allow a mobilisation period, the current contract has been extended by a period of up to six months to ensure continuity of services for Orkney and Shetland.
Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse said: “I’m very pleased these issues have been resolved so that we can now start to focus on the award of the new contract and the benefits it will bring to the communities that are served by these lifeline ferry services.
“These include customer focused enhancements, such as extra premium cabins, terminal lounge refurbishment at Hatston and extended opening hours for customer services.
“We want to support key sectors of the Northern Isles’ economies, such as tourism, fishing, food and drink, aquaculture and farming. With these sectors in mind, the new contract will also include the flexibility to allow timetabled freight and ferry services to be amended to better reflect changes in future demand.
“All these improvements, coupled with the three year fares freeze and cabin discounts that came into effect on the first of January, underline the Scottish Government’s commitment to providing high quality ferry links to and from the Northern Isles.”