Re­view means vis­i­tors can now get back home

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS - BY LOUISE GLEN

A north MSP called a de­lay over North­ern Isles’ ferry book­ings for 2019 “un­ac­cept­able” af­ter cus­tomers told him they could book to go to the is­land over the fes­tive pe­riod but not to come home.

Yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, North­Link Fer­ries said it had re­viewed its pro­ce­dures and cus­tomers would be able to book Jan­uary dates from Mon­day.

One man taking up a teach­ing job in Shet­land was un­able to guar­an­tee he would be there in time for his start­ing date, be­cause he couldn’t book a ferry. He raised the mat­ter with High­lands and Is­lands MSP Jamie Hal­cro John­ston, who said: “It is ut­terly un­ac­cept­able that, so close to the new year, pas­sen­gers still could not book travel to and from Orkney and Shet­land for 2019.

“It is ob­vi­ous that is­land res­i­dents, tourists and lo­cal busi­nesses need to be able to plan jour­neys a rea­son­able time in ad­vance, and to be as­sured that ser­vices will be op­er­at­ing.

“At the mo­ment, vis­i­tors can book to come to the is­lands for Christ­mas and Hog­manay, but can’t book their re­turn jour­ney. And res­i­dents can’t get home via North­link if they’ve been away.

“The con­tin­ued de­lays and lack of at­ten­tion to our ferry ser­vices risk dam­ag­ing our lo­cal econ­omy and caus­ing con­sid­er­able in­con­ve­nience for peo­ple who have to make es­sen­tial travel ar­range­ments.”

“Peo­ple need to be able to plan trips”

James Leask, an Or­ca­dian stu­dent liv­ing in Ed­in­burgh said: “Un­til Mon­day, I could go to see my fam­ily at Christ­mas, but I couldn’t get back to Ed­in­burgh af­ter New Year.

“We are not just an­other ser­vice, we are a life­line ser­vice and we are im­por­tant.”

Shet­land’s Mhari Brooks said: “I wanted to go and see my fam­ily in Shrop­shire for Christ­mas in a car and on a ferry, but I couldn’t or­gan­ise a time to get home and back to work.”

NORTH­LINK FER­RIES: Jan­uary dates avail­able from Mon­day

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