Responding to the Scottish Government’s announcement today that Serco has been selected as the preferred bidder to operate the new contract for the Northern Isles Ferry Services network, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur commented:
“I welcome confirmation that Serco has been chosen as the preferred bidder for the Northern Isles ferry contract. This will allow for continuity in the delivery of this lifeline service upon which our island communities rely.
“The reductions in fares and cabin costs on the Aberdeen routes are also a move in the right direction, though they fall short of what was promised by Ministers last year. There is also no sign of fare reductions being implemented on the Pentland Firth route, where they could make a significant difference in lowering costs, or indeed a reinstatement of sailings on that route that were cut when the contract was last tendered.
“I am concerned too that there seems to be no movement in increasing freight capacity serving the Northern Isles. While greater flexibility in how existing capacity is used may be helpful in some circumstances, the clear message from key business sectors in both Orkney and Shetland over the past year is that additional freight capacity is desperately needed.
“It will be important, of course, to consider the detail of this new contract, but already it appears there are some glaring omissions. When it comes to meeting the needs of Orkney and Shetland into the future, that is not encouraging.”