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election

North Isles By-election — candidates share transport views

It’s just days to go until the the votes are counted for the North Isles By-election. Four candidates are in the race for the third spot in the North Isles ward of Orkney Islands Council.

Voters have been encouraged to cast their ballot by post. Remember to return your vote to Orkney Islands Council or to the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, by 10pm on Thursday, October 1.

As the countdown continues, The Orcadian will be refreshing voters memories with some of the views expressed by the candidates, so far.

Here, they share their views on the future of transport in the North Isles. 

 

Claire Stevens, independent.

Claire Stevens (independent)

At present the current ferry service to the North Isles is failing on three counts:

  • It does not meet the needs of the islanders.
  • It is uneconomic, placing a great burden on the resources of the OIC.
  • The air services have limited capacity for both passengers and cargo, are expensive to run and to use.

It is important that we have a integrated service that provides better connections from the isles to
Orkney Mainland (and beyond) and create an inter-island service.

The introduction of passenger only ferries to allow cheaper more frequent travel and the replacement of the old costly to run and maintain ro-ro ferries with modern fuel efficient ones.

This would be a benefit to all, allowing new employment opportunities both within the North Isles and the Mainland. It would be a major tool in promoting inter-island trade and tourism, such as island-hopping holidays.
For residents of the North Isles, the new services would also facilitate connections for families on different isles and smooth the links for travel outwith Orkney.

An Isles resident rate would increase foot fall, encourage new residents, young adult retention and other sustainable solutions.

Turning Orkney Ferries from a continually loss making company to a profit making one would alleviate financial pressure on the council and make the isles a place to invest in.

The air service provides another travel option to the North Isles for those that want or need it. Going forward it is essential to view air and ferry services as a complete package, and plan for them accordingly.

Heather Woodbridge, independent.

Heather Woodbridge (independent)

Only in Orkney and Shetland are the internal ferries run and paid for by the local authorities; all other public ferry services in Scotland are run by Transport Scotland, effectively the Scottish Government.

I firmly believe that OIC must continue to lobby the Scottish Government to provide

1) the immediate funding to address the current and historical financial burden on the Council and;

2) for the long-term funding required for the capital investment and infrastructure required for the North Isles to realise the modern services they need and deserve.

Significant work has already been carried out to progress the Outline Business Case which is essential for securing this central funding. Without this, the Council could not absorb the cost of replacing the ageing ferry fleet.

I would lobby for a community-led approach in designing our future transport network. Residents of the North Isles must be intimately included in discussions around the design of their new transport solution. Islanders are specialists of the challenges they themselves face, so let’s make use of those lifetimes of expertise! This positive approach to community involvement must occur at every stage of the design process with the responsibility for transparency and good communication laying squarely with the Council. At every step we must ensure that no island is left behind.

The inter-isles flights are a lifeline for some, and too infrequent or lack capacity for others. The current timetable is maximised within the budget available and lifeline services must not be eroded as islands are forced to compete. We often speak about ferries, but the air service network also requires significant investment and development.

The North Isles must now work together for a coordinated approach to deliver a sustainable and modern solution for both the present and future transport needs of every island.

Daniel Adams, independent.

Daniel Adams (independent)

Transport is the key topic in this election. I can put it no simpler than it is past overdue for new vessels.

We need to think about several aspects when it comes to the transport issues. We need new boats, that are more efficient, quicker, and more sustainable. We need better flights to and from the mainland at better times that suit islanders. As well as this we need to work hard to gain transport on every island to better help the tourism we wish to achieve.

I hope to be able to insinuate sustained recruitment from the north isles as well as the possibility of situating apprenticeships on the boats as well. With the possibility that this may be the largest purchase we make as a council; I believe it is vital that we take full advantage.

I also wish to make clear that the £230 million being spent on the mainland harbours must incur benefits to us, the islanders. This can include allowing public transport such as busses to meet the boats from the north isles.

This is the time for us to invest along side long term projects, I will consult all islanders and every island on what is best for them, I will work tirelessly with the other council members to see that the cost is bought down, the timetables are more flexible and better suited to our needs.

I believe that with new and better travel prospects we can entice our youth back to the islands. I believe we can recruit new, smarter, and greener business as well as young families to reinvigorate our islands.

Together we can work towards a more prosperous and opportunity filled future. It is only by creating opportunity that we can flourish.

Coilla Drake, Scottish Labour Party.

Coilla Drake (Scottish Labour Party)

Transport links are key, everything that comes in or goes out of our isles, food, goods, people must do so by ferry or plane.

We are all dependent on the size, condition, provision and timetabling of these services for our everyday needs and the health of our economy. We all know our ferries are aged, inaccessible, slow, expensive to run, and not good for the environment. Replacement has been in discussion for at least 15 years, it was being discussed when I was planning my move to Westray, and still hasn’t happened. The new boats must be fast, efficient, accessible and environmentally friendly.

Scotland now has a nationalised shipyard which is working on Hydrogen propelled ferries and collaborating with Orkney in the HySeas III project. Hydrogen ferries would reduce our emissions and contribute towards Scotland meeting her emissions targets.

What is happening now since COVID and nationalisation? As a Councillor I will continue to relentlessly pursue this issue.

Our plane links are invaluable but limited due to their small size and timetabling issues, flights often don’t link with ongoing transport making for protracted journeys. This is another area for action.

Fares need addressing on both transport links. One possible solution would be an islander card allowing us to access discount without having to buy bulk tickets or return air tickets to our isle. This would free up opportunities for travel combinations of both ferry and plane, and allow all residents to be able to access a full discount.

In November 2017, I launched a petition about the issue of ferry fares it was signed by just under 1,300 people. There has been no further news on this though I have followed up on several occasions, as a councillor I will push this issue.