Passengers on Orkney Ferries will see standard fares reduced by 38% from 14 June and the 50% discount on pre-paid books of 50 tickets retained, following debate and agreement of a new fares structure at a Special Full Council meeting of Orkney Islands Council on Monday (31 May).
Councillors were considering how best to make use of additional funding allocated by the Scottish Government this financial year to fully fund the operation of the county’s internal ferries.
The Council was allocated specific grant funding of £7.855 million from the Scottish Government in March this year, for this 2021/22 financial year to fully cover the costs of operating internal ferry services including providing a year-round Sunday winter services across the Inner and South Isles.
Among the changes agreed by Council today was an across-the-board reduction in the normal ‘base’ rate for passenger and vehicle fares, by 38%, for travel booked for on or after 14 June. This will see ferry fares in the Inner and South Isles costing less than a bus between Stromness and Kirkwall.
Councillors also agreed that, from 1 June, the sale of 50 multi-journey booklets will be available at the current price (which provides a discount rate of 50% on current standard base prices), but with an expiry date of 365 days – down from 500 days.
Speaking after the meeting, Council Convener Harvey Johnston said: “The decision at this week’s Special General meeting reflects the overwhelming desire of Councillors to pass on the Scottish Government funding as soon as possible to Orkney’s travelling public.
“We have undertaken to consult in depth with island communities in advance of any changes to the 50 book of tickets in the longer term.
“As has often been argued by the Council, there is still a long way to go before our inter-island service is on a par with that provided in other areas in Scotland, and this is an issue we continue to engage with the Government on.”
James Buck is the Council’s Head of Head of Marine Services, Transportation and Harbour Master: “We understand that customers will be looking to get a refund of the new 38% discount on tickets purchased for travelling after mid June, as well as for booklets of 10 and 20 tickets which are being discontinued when the new discount is implemented.
“Orkney Ferries advise they have been able to verify all tickets purchased and will begin an automated refund process for travel from 14 June.
“This will take time - we ask for customers patience as staff undertake this huge task which could not be started until Monday’s (31 May) Full Council decision.
“If customers believe they are due a refund and have not received one within 90 days, they should then contact Orkney Ferries.
“Those seeking a refund on the unused portions of 10 or 20 journey vouchers need to post their books into Orkney Ferries before a refund will be issued.
“We anticipate a high level of calls on this subject and we will endeavour to work through refunds as quickly as possible. Please be aware that, depending on ticket type and numbers, refunds may take several weeks to work through.”
The new fare structure includes a concessionary rate of 25% for elderly and disabled on top of the 38% reduction in the normal base rate (so, a 7% reduction on current fares), and a 50% discount for juniors - also on top of the 38% discount. Children aged 0-5 years of age will remain free of charge.
The minimum age to access elderly concessionary fares will move from 60 to 65, in line with the local concessionary travel scheme, to be phased in over the next 5 years - those aged over 60 now will continue to be eligible for the discount.
Young people attending full time education and students with a Young Scot Card or valid full time student card will be eligible to a 50% discount on top of the new lower fares - a significant discount to young people.
The new fare structure will be implemented by Orkney Ferries on 14 June and reviewed post-Covid for impacts and benefits, with communities consulted on the future of 50-ticket booklets before February 2022.
Meantime, consultation will continue via the Air and Ferry Forum which is convened twice each year.
Under the new fare structure starting on 14 June:
- Inner Isles adult passenger fare will reduce from the current £4.55 to £2.82
- Inner isles car fare will reduce from the current £14.40 down to £8.93
- Outer North Isles car fare will reduce from the current £20.90 down to £12.96
- Outer North Isles adult passenger fare will reduce from the current £8.85 down to £5.49