Three and a half months into the contract for the Northern Isles Ferry Services that it began delivering on 5th July 2012, Serco Northlink has announced that it is raising the fares and cutting the services on the routes.
It is to raise 2013 fares on the ferries to the Orkney and Shetland Isles by 2.8% – and it is to cut the daily services from Scrabster in Caithness to Stromness in Orkney from three to two sailings a day in the low season.
These changes had been agreed previously with the Scottish Government but the detail has only now been announced.
Serco Northlink’s Managing Director, Stuart Garrett is quoted as saying: ‘The NorthLink routes will now be more efficient, allowing us to invest in improvements while delivering a service that’s affordable to the Scottish government.’
Two return sailings a day to Orkney in the off season seems a reasonable adjustment.
The company has also revised the boundaries of the seasons, in consultation with the island communities.
To the end of 2012, these are:
- Low Season – January, February, March, November, December (excluding 19 Dec – 8 Jan).
- Mid Season – April, May, June, September, October, 19 Dec – 8 Jan (to include Christmas & New Year period).
- Peak Season – July, August
For 2013, they will be:
- Low Season – 9th January to 23rd March, 1st November to 18th December.
- Mid Season – 24th March to 14th June, 1st September to 31st October, 19 Dec – 8 Jan (to include Christmas and New Year period).
- Peak Season – 15th June to 31st August
The impact of this is what Team GB cycling supremo, Dave Brailsford calls ‘marginal gains’ – which add up to substantial ones.
The revision of the dates of the pricing seasons for 2013:
- shifts the last week in March from Low to Mid season – with adult passenger and car [<6metres] fares rising by 26% between Low and Mid season
- shifts two weeks and two days in June from Mid to High season – with adult passenger fares rising by almost 20% and car [<6metres] fares rising 6% between Mid and High season
The reduction to two sailings a day in low season from 2013 will also mean that the company will make a very substantial saving of 33% of its fuel costs and harbour dues for 33% – four months – of the year. Presumably there will also be savings in crewing costs which must have now been agreed with the representative RMT union?