Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to provide key worker travel as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland. Between 22 March, when a revised service was introduced, and the end of April, passenger volumes have significantly reduced as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect the effectiveness of the application of the Scottish Government’s lockdown criteria. Passenger numbers across all routes this year, for the period 22 March to 30 April were 2,025 in comparison to 33,005 over the same period in 2019. This is a reduction of 96%. Vehicles were recorded at 798 – a reduction from 8,516 in 2019 (91%). Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly however recorded an overall decrease of 21%, with recorded lane meterage of 50,195 versus 63,513 last year. More than 7,000 (7,093) bookings have been cancelled to date during the COVID-19 lockdown period resulting in a reduction of 22,335 passengers across all services. This has led to processing over £2.7m in refunds. Stuart Garrett, Serco’s managing director of NorthLink Ferries, said: “We are currently running an essential lifeline service between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland and so it was expected that we would see a steep decline in numbers. “We’re thanking passengers for their understanding and co-operation at this time and do remind them that by staying at home they are helping to keep themselves and others safe, particularly as we approach this bank holiday weekend.” To date, 29 passengers have been refused travel under the lockdown criteria over the NorthLink Ferries routes. The company is challenging those not deemed as essential passengers and are denying boarding unless passengers meet the criteria of a key worker or an islander with a need to travel. Details of the revised timetable and permitted reasons for travel can be found at www.northlinkferries.co.uk or by calling 0845 6000 449.