Serco NorthLink to be awarded ferry contract
THE PREFERRED bidder to deliver ferry services to the Northern Isles has been confirmed today, Friday, as Serco NorthLink Ferries.
Also announced was a substantial package of fare reductions to be introduced by Scottish Ministers for Orkney and Shetland islanders.
The overall contract, which is estimated to be worth around £345 million, will begin on October 31 and run for eight years.
According to the government the bid made commitments to improve the service, aiming to help drive economic growth in the Northern Isles, improve customer service and make sure the company delivers value for money for the public purse.
There will be a 10 day standstill period before the contract is formally signed and awarded. More information on the contract will be made available following the award.
Ministers say that they remain committed to reducing fares across the whole Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS) network as soon as possible.
However, the government says that reducing fares on the Scrabster-Stromness route has been frustrated by the difficulty in negotiating an agreement for the inclusion of commercial operators on the Pentland Firth in a fares reduction scheme and, latterly, by a formal state aid complaint to the European Commission by Pentland Ferries against its proposed fares policy and compensation model.
“We, therefore, need to take Pentland Ferries’ ongoing State aid complaints into consideration when deciding the timing of any fare freeze or fare reductions on the Scrabster–Stromness route,” the government statement added.
Just some of the benefits of the new contract, details of which will be published following contract award, include the upgrade of ten cabins to premium class, upgraded terminal facilities at Hatston, and improved customer communications and services.
On fares, the Scottish Government is taking action to ensure that from January islanders will be able to enjoy a 20 per cent year-round discount on cabin fares on Aberdeen-Kirkwall-Lerwick routes, and benefit from a three-year fares freeze for passengers, non-commercial vehicles and cabins on those routes.
Futher details in The Orcadian next week.