Northern Isles MSPs keep pressure on Government over Northern Isles ferry service

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur have written to the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse to seek clarity on Government progress towards tendering the next ferry service contract, and on the full implementation of RET.

The next ferry contract is set to be awarded this summer to operate from 31 October 2019. However, there are concerns that thorough public scrutiny will not be possible in this short time frame. In addition, there is no indication as to when RET will be introduced in full on Lerwick-Aberdeen routes, and at all on Orkney routes. To add to the growing frustration, passengers have noticed an increase in fares on the same period last year.  

Tavish and Liam have asked the Minister to set out key dates in the timetable for tendering and have made clear that disputes over RET must be overcome with a greater sense of urgency.

Commenting Tavish said:

“The Government must get on with tendering the next contract. Improvements in our lifeline ferry services will only be delivered if there is proper, detailed input from those who rely so heavily on those services. Freight capacity in particular must improve following unacceptable delays in recent months.

“Islanders and island businesses need and deserve greater clarity as they look to confirm plans for the year ahead.

“Ministers are still yet to deliver on their promises for fare reductions. This RET saga is an utter shambles, the cost of travel remains prohibitive for many isles families. As cabin costs on the overnight sailing are still excluded, RET makes next to no difference for a Shetland family travelling south to Aberdeen.

“The Government should be in no doubt about the strength of feeling in the isles about RET and the urgent need for clarity.

Commenting, Liam added:

“The continued absence of RET on any of the main Orkney routes means islanders are still paying over the odds for these lifeline services.  Breaking the legal logjam must be given higher priority.  In the meantime, the funding that is not being spent on reducing fares on these routes could be used to support Orkney’s internal ferry services.

“There is also growing concern about the time frame for tendering the Northern Isles ferry contract.  Local freight and other users of the services must have a meaningful input into shaping those services.  That simply cannot happen unless we see greater urgency from the Scottish Government in taking forward the bid process.”

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