Orkney and Shetland ferry fares to be slashed next year

Ferry fares for people travelling to Orkney and Shetland are to be significantly cut next year with the hope of boosting tourism in the Northern Isles, ministers have announced.

The introduction of a new tariff system is expected to see fares for foot passengers cut by an average of more than 40 per cent with car fares also down by around a third.

From the first half of 2018 all Pentland Firth routes will use the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), which is designed to ensure that passengers pay no more than they would if travelling by car.

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A variant of the scheme, which is already used on ferry services on the Clyde and to the Hebrides, will also be introduced on routes from Aberdeen to Kirkwall on Orkney and Lerwick on Shetland.

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It is hoped that the new system will make travel more affordable for local residents and attract more tourists to the islands, with some visitors being put off by the high fares and long journey times.

Current ferry fares for Orkney and Shetland can vary significantly depending on whether passengers are local residents or visitors, with the latter group paying higher prices.

A trip from Scrabster in Caithness to Stromness on Orkney currently costs around £68 for islanders and £98 for tourists, based on two people travelling in peak season with a car.

Under the new system, the two-tier system will be scrapped and the same trip will cost just £42 for all. A similar trip from Aberdeen to Lerwick on Shetland will result in a saving of £118 for visitors and £49 for local residents.

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands, said the price cuts would help support the economy of the Northern Isles, describing the ferries as a “lifeline” for local people.

“This reduction in fares will make ferry travel to and from the Northern Isles even more attractive for islanders and tourists,” he added.

“It also brings fares into line with those on the Clyde and Hebrides network, ensuring parity and supporting our aim of having one overarching fares policy across our ferry services.

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“Detailed analysis is being carried out on the potential impact on demand and options to mitigate capacity issues will also be investigated, given the likely rise in passenger numbers.”

Northern Isles MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott welcomed the move, but said it was “long overdue” given that residents in the Western Isles had long enjoyed cheaper fares.

Mr Scott added: “The SNP used to say that it wasn’t possible to reduce our ferry fares. Their change of heart is down to the islands refusing to accept no, and I pay tribute to everyone across Shetland who has been involved in making that case.”



Scrabster to Stromness (Orkney)

Peak season, two people, with car

Now: £98 for visitors, £68 for islanders

After fare reduction: £42 for all

Aberdeen to Lerwick (Shetland)

Peak season, two people, with car

Now: £228 for visitors, £159 for islanders

After fare reduction: £110 for all