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2018 Northern Isles Ferry Services Options Appraisal

Informing the future contract specification of lifeline ferry services between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland

  • Orkney and Shetland Islands, United Kingdom

    Orkney and Shetland Islands, United Kingdom

Specifying the next half decade of ferry services

The Scottish Government provides lifeline NorthLink ferry services to Orkney and Shetland from the Scottish mainland through an operating contract which is tendered every five to seven years. In order to inform the tender specification issued in 2018, we were appointed by Transport Scotland to undertake a wide-ranging options appraisal.

The tender specification sets out the services to be provided including ports and routes, timetables, vessels, fares, and booking arrangements. We undertook passenger and stakeholder engagement to collate views on the service including those of key freight sectors such a seafood. This was informed by on-board surveys, web-based island resident surveys, and public exhibitions. The vehicle deck and passenger accommodation (as many services operates overnight) are often capacity constrained, and this was analysed and presented as part of this study with a view to considering options to increase capacity.

We undertook analysis of different timetable options and set out the issues and difficulties surrounding making more intensive use of the current vessels. Transport Scotland used the findings of the options appraisal directly in the tender specification.  

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  • Transport Scotland
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Scott Leitham, Director, Transport Planning, Strategy and Research

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Scott Leitham

Director, Transport Planning, Strategy and Research

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