Northern Isles ferry fares cut in 2018

Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf.

A scheme to significantly reduce fares on Northern Isles ferry services will be rolled out in the first half of 2018, the Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf has announced.

Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) will be introduced on the Pentland Firth routes, whilst a variant of the RET scheme will be brought in on the routes from Aberdeen to Kirkwall and Lerwick.

This will see foot passenger fares cut by an average of more than 40%, whilst car fares will be reduced by an average of more than 30%.

Work is being undertaken with the commercial operators on the Pentland Firth – both NorthLink Ferries and Pentland Ferries – with a view to including them in the fares reduction scheme.

This is the first time that the Northern Isles have been included in the scheme, while the Western Isles have benefited from RET for a number of years.

Mr Yousaf said: “During my first visit to the Northern Isles as Transport Minister I committed to ensuring we would reduce ferry fares as soon as practically possible. It was a clear manifesto commitment and I’m very pleased we are now in a position to announce when that pledge will be delivered.

“These significant fare cuts will be rolled out in the first half of 2018. It is also our intention to include the commercial operators on the Pentland Firth in this scheme, and we will work with them to put a suitable system in place to allow that to happen.

“This reduction in fares will make ferry travel to and from the Northern Isles even more attractive for islanders and tourists. It also brings fares into line with those on the Clyde and Hebrides network, ensuring parity and supporting our aim of having one overarching fares policy across our ferry services.

“Detailed analysis is being carried out on the potential impact on demand and options to mitigate capacity issues will also be investigated, given the likely rise in passenger numbers.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting our island communities and this fares reduction scheme will ensure our lifeline ferry services remain affordable for the people that depend on them, whilst also helping support the economy of the Northern Isles.”

Giving his reaction Orkney Islands Council Leader James Stockan said: “I welcome the Minister’s announcement that there will be a significant reduction in fares on all routes linking Orkney with the Scottish mainland.

“The council has been working on this with the Scottish Government for a considerable time. We have long wished to see travel south made more affordable for the people of our islands – and tourists encouraged by cheaper fares to visit Orkney in even greater numbers than they do today.

“We expect reduced fares to result in considerably more traffic on our external ferry routes, as they have on the West Coast of Scotland. The Minister’s commitment to provide parity with the West Coast routes and an overarching fares policy will benefit our community greatly.”

• The Scottish Government says that the exact reductions for each route will be confirmed in due course, as decisions on fares for 2018 have yet to be taken.

However, the previous two-tier fare system for islanders and non-islander will be replaced with a flat rate, which will be in place all year round and capped at the season low islander rate or lower.

By example, using the RET mechanism and current 2017 fares, a trip between Scrabster and Stromness in peak season for two people with a vehicle would cost around £42.00, instead of the current prices of £68.46 for islanders and £97.80 for non-islanders.

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