5th February 2013
Minimising impact, maximizing savings – inter island ferry service review
Shetland Islands Council has approved changes to its interisland ferry service which will generate savings of £3.1 million by 2017, while minimising the impact on island communities.
Members were presented with five packages of options which had been developed by officers after a marathon 18-month review, involving extensive and detailed consultation with island communities and staff. Several elements of feedback from islanders and ferry crews were used in the option finally recommended to the full Council.
The approved package (see full outline below) includes:
- Reintroducing fares on Bluemull Sound
- Reducing the number of sailings on most routes
- A reduction of 31 posts, where possible by ending temporary contracts, or offering voluntary redundancy or early retirement
Discussions will continue with employees over future staffing levels, and with crews and communities over the shape of future timetables. The aim is to introduce the new timetables and levels of service on most routes by early June 2013. Officers will report back to Council every six months on how the changes are progressing.
Councillor Allan Wishart chairs the SIC's Environment and Transport Committee: 'I must pay tribute to our staff, who have put such an enormous amount of work into this review - and to the island communities who have worked alongside them to come up with this option. There will inevitably be some inconvenience to ferry users as the new services bed in, but I believe we've delivered the best outcome, given the finances the Council has available.'
Political Leader Gary Robinson also pays tribute to the level of community involvement: 'I've been impressed by the how well service users and ferries staff have worked together throughout this long and difficult process. Consultation isn't always easy when pressures are on budgets, but I think this review shows how productive it can be when it works well.'
With the SIC's annual budget-setting meeting set to take place on the 20th February, Convener Malcolm Bell says he's pleased the Council has taken another important step towards financial sustainability: "This Council is in no doubt about the scale of the task facing us across the organisation. I am happy, in this case, that we have been able to work with communities to find a model for delivery which is sustainable, and acceptable to ferry users."
Service package approved by SIC on 4th February
The shift vessel, “Bigga”, will operate in a similar way to at present, i.e. 17 hours per day, 7 days each week.
The day vessel, “Geira”, will have one less crew member attached to her and the remaining crew will work an average of 40 hours per week compared to 42 at present. This will result in the vessel being manned for an average of 40 hours each week compared to 42 in winter and 66 in summer at present. It may be decided to operate more hours during the summer than in the winter.
Fares will be reintroduced onto the route. The final fares structure will not be introduced until new ticket machines are available (c. June 2013). In the meantime, fares will only be charged for traffic moving between Yell, Unst and Fetlar. Traffic from mainland Shetland will not be charged twice.
It is proposed that the Yell Sound service will continue to be operated with one shift vessel operating 18 hours a day (17 hours at sea), 7 days a week, and a day vessel operating 12 hours Monday – Friday (10 hours at sea), Monday to Friday. This will give a possible 24 return sailings a day on weekdays and 16 a day at weekends, compared to 28 Monday to Saturday and 19 on Sunday at present.
The through-night manning will be reduced from a full crew to 2 shipkeepers. This could affect the availability of the vessel for emergency sailings out of hours, although it is intended to introduce standby arrangements to mitigate this.
The proposal is to base the Skerries ferry “Filla” in Skerries instead of Symbister, Whalsay. This will remove the need for positioning runs. One of the Lerwick sailings will be replaced with 2 return sailings in summer to Vidlin, reducing to 1 in winter.
This will give 12 return crossings per week in Summer as is the case at present, and 11 Return crossings per week in Winter compared to 12 at present.
The crew will require to be based in Skerries and to live there during their time on duty.
Please note these changes are scheduled for January, 2014, to allow for a period of extensive consultation with staff and the community on delivering this option.
The Whalsay service will be very similar to Yell, with “Linga” operating a 18 hours a day (17 hours at sea), 7 days a week, and “Hendra” operating 12.5 hours (11.5 hours at sea) from Monday to Friday.
This will give a possible 17 return sailings a day on weekdays, and 11 a day at weekends, compared to 18 Monday to Saturday and 12 on Sunday at present.
The Bressay ferry “Leirna” will be operated with 4 crew instead of 5. The number of passengers able to be carried will be reduced to 50 (although application has been made for this to be increased by about 10). To reduce the impact on the 0830 sailing from Bressay, which frequently carries more than 50, an additional sailing at 0800 from Bressay will be introduced. It should be noted that there are restrictions on the operation of the vessel with 4 crew, which may result in disruptions if a 5th man cannot be deployed when required, such as during severe weather or restricted visibility.
The vessel will operate 17 hours a day (16 hours at sea) Sunday to Thursday, and 19 hours (18 hours at sea) Friday and Saturday. Start and stop times as per present timetable.
There will also be a reduction in the number of scheduled sailings (c. 15 sailings a week) by removing under-utilised runs. The current arrangement will continue, with additional sailings being operated when traffic cannot be accommodated on scheduled runs and time permits, except during recognised breaks.
The Fair Isle service will continue as at present, as additional revenue will result from fares changes already implemented.
The roll-on/roll-off service to Papa Stour will continue to be operated by “Snolda”, but there will be a reduction in sailings with removal of the Monday sailings all year, and the Saturday afternoon sailing in winter.
This will result in 7 return crossings per week in Summer compared to 8 at present, and 6 return crossings per week in Winter compared to 8 at present.
Reduced service on public holidays (Up Helly Aa and Easter Monday) which will be a single vessel on Bluemull Sound, Whalsay Sound and Yell Sound; and no Skerries Service on Easter Monday.