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Serco sees off Northlink Ferries challenge

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The legal challenge to the renewal of Serco's Northlink Ferries contract – linking the Scottish mainland with Orkney and Shetland – has finally gone away.

Rival bidder CalMac had challenged last year's contract award by the Scottish Government, but then in February the West coast operator said that it would not proceed with the lawsuit.

That was confirmed this week, leaving Serco clear to continue. The outsourcing giant had been running the ferry service on an interim basis, but this means that the substantive longterm contract can now be finalised. 

That in turn will pave the way for a package of improvements, including an upgrade to the Kirkwall terminal and a new smart ticketing system.

Serco originally took over the ferry service in 2012, and has seen an 18% increase in passenger numbers and a 38% increase in vehicles carried.

Hamnavoe ferry.png

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22 minutes ago, Millsy said:

I hope they do better than they've managed with the sleeper service. 

Sleeper is a word which opens a can of worms called sleeping pods.... Because the cabin accommodation is limited, and has historically been expensive, the pod solution seemed attractive. I reality, other than summer hikers and the like, they are loathed! I believe that cabin accommodation is both to be increased in numbers, and decreased in price, at least for islanders (including Friends and Family scheme) and particularly low season. Promises have been made and folk will be very grumpy if not kept.

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A great picture of MV Hamnavoe, seen at Stromness, from where it does the short crossing to Scrabster (so will not benefit from the promised improvements at Kirkwall). I did the trip last year, and it’s a very comfortable and attractive ship. It was however very lightly loaded, and I did wonder whether they were losing out to the competition from Pentland Ferries, whose route to Orkney is shorter, cheaper and more frequent. 

We had booked a repeat trip for this April, including the overnight cabin and breakfast offer for the morning sailing from Stromness. When it became clear that the holiday would not happen, I received a quick and full refund from Northlink, despite the terms and conditions allowing them to keep part of the payment if they’d insisted. An object lesson to some other ferry companies one can think of.

Overall, my experience of Serco on this route was very positive : surprising, since their reputation in other areas, including as mentioned the upgraded Caledonian sleeper is terrible.

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4 hours ago, Millsy said:

I was referring to their dire Caledonian rail service. 

They also run a few hospitals I’ve used one “Forth valley” and it’s significantly better than my local hospital .

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