Talks to be held over Stromness to Scrabster ferry breakdown

Hamnavoe tied up The ferry Hamnavoe will be out of action until at least 24 May

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Orkney Islands Council is to hold talks with the operators of Serco Northlink Ferries and the Scottish government following the breakdown of the Stromness to Scrabster service.

The Hamnavoe will be out of action until at least 24 May due to engine problems.

The council said it was becoming "worryingly evident" that business in Orkney was suffering.

The talks will be held in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Council convener Councillor Steven Heddle said: "It is vital that this lifeline ferry service is fully restored as soon as possible.

"Tourism businesses have been reporting cancellations because some guests are unaware of an alternative service or do not find the travel times suitable.

"This is obviously of great concern to the council as we move into the busy part of the year - and why we continue to urge Serco NorthLink Ferries and the government to pull out all the stops and find a suitable replacement vessel for the lifeline Stromness-Scrabster route that provides the travelling public with the service they expect."

Shuttle buses

He added: "We will be working with the local tourism industry to establish the impact on their businesses and engaging with people more widely to canvass their experiences of how they, or their families, have been inconvenienced."

Senior representatives of the company and the Scottish government have also agreed to a request to meet councillors in Orkney on 13 May to discuss a range of matters connected with the Stromness-Scrabster route.

Orkney Tourism Group and VisitOrkney will be invited to take part in the discussions.

Councillor Heddle added: "We welcome the company's efforts to introduce a temporary freight service between Scrabster and Stromness - and it is good to know that the Hamnavoe is heading south for repairs.

"The clear signposting to alternative services and the shuttle buses being provided by Serco Northlink are also positive measures that assist hauliers and travellers.

"These are steps in the right direction, and the message from all concerned is that Orkney is still open for business - do not be discouraged from travelling. "

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