Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to maintain vital transport links over the autumn and winter period – following the opening of its 2021 booking system at the start of October.
The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework, and while passenger and car volumes are down significantly year-on-year they have shown further signs of strengthening over the last few months.
During the period March 22 to November 30, passenger numbers across all routes were 80,804 compared with 296,716 over the same period in 2019, a reduction of 71%
In November specifically, passenger numbers were at 7,410 compared to 16,049 in the same month in 2019 – a reduction of 54%.
Car volumes from March 22 to November 30 were recorded at 30,317 which represented a 61% reduction on the 78,550 recorded in the same period in 2019. In November, car volumes were at 2,699 compared to 4,182 in 2019, a reduction of 35%.
Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have remained strong. Freight lane meterage was recorded at 392,823 from March 22 to November 30, a 9% decrease year-on-year. In November, volumes shipped were 4% higher than the previous year – with 53,299 lane metres recorded compared with 51,294 in the same month last year.
Since travel restrictions were first introduced in March, there have been 21,846 cabins and 2,645 pods used, a reduction on figures of 57,675 and 14,068 in the equivalent period in 2019. In November, 2,592 cabins were used compared to 4,532 in November 2019.
Stuart Garrett, Serco’s managing director of NorthLink Ferries, said: “As we get closer to Christmas we continue to see reduced footfall but are heartened by the strengthening of passenger and car volumes which has continued throughout autumn.
“We’re particularly pleased to have been able to support another successful livestock season with freight volumes holding up particularly strongly throughout the crisis.
“With our 2021 booking system now open, we look forward to a return towards normality but in the meantime are continuing our cautious approach to service delivery. We would strongly advise anyone considering travelling over the festive period to only to do so if it is line with public health guidelines, while being mindful of potential shifts in restrictions across different council areas.”
NorthLink Ferries services are operating on their normal timetable. Assessments have been carried out to ensure appropriate physical distancing can be maintained, with capacity set at 335 on the MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, and 290 on MV Hamnavoe.
Passenger travel on the MV Helliar and MV Hildasay remains suspended to ensure resilience is maintained on these lifeline freight services. In autumn 2020, NorthLink Ferries carried 98,332 sheep and 8,754 cattle, representing an increase in sheep and a small decrease in cattle compared to 2019 figures.