Extra sailings for Homecoming events in Orkney : Passengers also benefit from concessionary travel extension

The extra lunchtime sailings on the Pentland Firth route will be timetabled around events in May and September, like the Orkney Folk Festival, and come following partnership working between Transport Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Serco NorthLink Ferries.

Eligible Orkney residents will also benefit from an extension to the National Concessionary Travel arrangements. This will allow passengers travelling on the first sailing of the day from Stromness, using their entitlement card and vouchers, to book a cabin free of charge the evening before their sailing. Vouchers for travel between April 2014 and March 2015 will arrive in early February to allow passengers to make advance bookings.

Mr Brown said:

“Tourism is extremely important to the Orkney Islands and these additional sailings will allow more people to visit and take part in the exciting programme planned for the Year of Homecoming.

“Working with Orkney Islands Council, we have identified a series of key events where these extra sailings will encourage more people to make the trip across the Pentland Firth to be part of the celebrations.

“I’m also very pleased to announce the extension of the National Concessionary Travel scheme to cover the Scrabster to Stromness route.

“The NCT arrangements are already being well used on the Aberdeen-Lerwick route, so I hope all eligible Orkney residents will take advantage of the scheme that allows them to book overnight accommodation on the ferry ahead of their sailing.

“The Scottish Government is committed to improving the lifeline ferry services to Orkney wherever possible, and these measures will help local residents as well as provide a real boost for tourism in this second Year of Homecoming.”

Councillor James Stockan, Chair of the Orkney Islands Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee said:

“We welcome the extra sailings and the extension to the concessionary travel scheme. Councillors and council officers have been working hard to secure these local demand led improvements, and as a result, not only have we secured them, but we have also strengthened our relationship with the Minister which is important as we look to negotiations for the next contract period.

“The extension to the concessionary travel scheme will be of great benefit to people across Orkney. Today’s announcement of extra sailings is also good news for the two festivals concerned who very much rely on travel before and after the events. Not only does it indicate the Scottish Government's commitment to supporting local festivals in the Year of Homecoming but also shows their commitment to the service and to the Stromness to Scrabster route.”

Stuart Garrett, Managing Director at Serco NorthLink Ferries, commented: “These events are of great appeal so we are delighted to be able to accommodate those attending with the extra sailings.

“The Year of Homecoming is significant for Scotland as a whole as we look to showcase what makes this nation great. These sailings will enable more people to sample Orkney’s vibrant events calendar.

“We hope the National Concessionary Travel arrangements on the MV Hamnavoe are as popular as they are on the Lerwick and Kirkwall services.”

Additional Pentland Firth Sailings – Summer 2014

Orkney Islands Council sought the addition of several lunchtime sailings to the Pentland Firth timetable to coincide with the following cultural events planned in 2014, to facilitate visitors to the islands during the Year of Homecoming. The following additional sailings have been added to the timetable:

  • 4 additional lunchtime sailings on 22, 27, 29 and 30 May 2014 to support the Orkney Folk Festival in Stromness (22-25 May)
  • 2 additional lunchtime sailings on 18 and 22 September 2014 to support the Orkney Blues Festival in Stromness (19-21 September)

Notes to editors

  1. Qualifying Orkney residents will be able to book overnight accommodation on the MV Hamnavoe through the NCT vouchers, supplied by the Scottish Government from February 2014.
  2. National Entitlement Cards are available to those aged 60 plus and the disabled.
  3. Customers are asked to quote reference numbers at time of booking and the scheme is subject to the availability of cabins on the MV Hamnavoe.
  4. This is an extension of the NCT arrangements which currently applies to Shetlanders using the Lerwick Aberdeen & Aberdeen–Lerwick service overnight free cabin service.
  5. The Scottish Government is committed to providing all eligible residents of our Island communities with access to concessionary ferry travel and each year in addition to Scotland-wide free bus travel qualifying islanders receive 4 vouchers for free travel between Orkney and Shetland or to and from the mainland. Vouchers for travel from April 2014 to March 2015 will be arriving in early February, to allow advance bookings to be made.

For further information contact:

Transport Scotland Press Office 0141 272 7195

News release: TS976SC

Published 27 Jan 2014