Study into future of Northern Isles Ferry Services

A comprehensive study of the Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS) will be carried out to inform the tender process for the next contract, Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay has announced.

The study, in line with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG), will be overseen by a Working Group, led by Transport Scotland and including representatives of Shetland Isles Council, Orkney Isles Council, ZetTrans, HITRANS and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The process will also involve detailed engagement with key stakeholders, such as the haulage industry and the relevant harbour authorities.

It’s expected the work will get underway later this summer and be completed in time to inform the early stages of the procurement for the next NIFS contract.

Speaking during his visit to the Shetland Isles, Mr Mackay said:

“The Northern Isles Ferry Services play a vital role for the communities of Shetland and Orkney and I want to make sure that we provide the best possible transport links for the communities that depend on them.

“This STAG study will help inform the procurement process for the next NIFS contract, looking at whether we can make improvements to the current set up.

“Consultation is at the heart of all the Scottish Government’s work and this will be no different. All our key partners will be involved in the Working Group that oversees this report, and we will also seek views from stakeholders like hauliers and harbour authorities.

“Passenger and freight transport to the Northern Isles are essential to the economies and sustainability of both Shetland and Orkney. This work will allow meaningful dialogue and collaboration on the future of these lifeline services, involving all the key stakeholders, to get underway in the very near future.”

Councillor Michael Stout, Chair of the Shetland Regional Transport Partnership, ZetTrans said:

“The announcement today that a STAG appraisal is to be carried out, for the first time, ahead of the tendering process for the Northern Isles Ferry Services contract is welcome news.

“The Councils in the Highlands and Islands and the Regional Transport Partnerships have been working closely with Transport Scotland on this new approach for some time.

“I look forward to the continued joint working to ensure we have the best lifeline ferry services possible for Shetland and Orkney”.

Councillor Gary Robinson, Leader of Shetland Islands Council said:

“I'm pleased to welcome the Islands Minister to Shetland again and look forward to continuing our positive dialogue with the Scottish Government.

“I’m particularly interested in taking forward our discussions on the forthcoming Islands Bill, ahead of the formal consultation period. The consultation will offer islanders a real opportunity to shape the legislation in order to secure the best social and economic benefits for Shetland.”

Notes to editors

The current NIFS contract is operated by Serco NorthLink Ferries and runs until April 2018. It covers services between Shetland, Orkney and the Scottish Mainland.

Published 12 Aug 2015