Shetland MSP Beatrice has criticised Transport Scotland for failing to understand the realities of overnight ferry travel and is calling on the Scottish Government ensure that islanders are not hit with unfair travel charges due to coronavirus restrictions.
Northlink Ferries suspended the use of shared cabins due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving passengers who want the use of a cabin forced to pay for the empty beds. Islanders with concessionary travel vouchers that would normally cover the whole cost of their overnight travel in a shared cabin are now faced with an additional £42 “surcharge” for their trip.
Ms Wishart has raised the matter with Transport Scotland. In reply, Transport Scotland said:
“Given the suspension of the shared cabin fare offer, Serco NorthLink have continued to offer a variety of accommodation options at various price points including POD lounges, recliners and cabins for those wishing to utilise them. Customers can still use their NCT ferry voucher for free passenger travel and to offset the cost of cabins for sole use. The practice has not been instituted as referenced to provide a ‘surcharge’ for those travelling during the current Covid-19 situation, but to continue to provide discounted travel to islanders during this period”
Commenting, Ms Wishart said:
“It’s right the use of shared cabins has been suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s entirely wrong that islanders are being forced to pay extra for a measure that’s been put in place to keep passengers safe. Train and bus passengers are not expected to pay for the empty seat next to them.
“While a civil servant in Edinburgh may not regard the suspension of the shared cabin offer and the consequent additional payment of £42 as a “surcharge”, the constituents who have been in touch with me certainly do.
“It is ridiculous to offer people who normally travel in a shared cabin the alternative of a pod or recliner chair for an overnight crossing. The Scottish Government needs to step in and ensure that islanders who are entitled to concessionary travel can make full use of their entitlement to a free berth in a cabin on overnight services.”