Serco has welcomed the decision at the Court of Session today (Tuesday 29 May 2012) to overturn the suspension of the Northern Isles Ferry Service Contract Award.
This confirms Serco as the operator of the Northern Isles Ferry Service from 5 July and allows Serco to publish its operational plans.
A series of meetings and discussions to explain Serco's plans to interested parties in Shetland, Orkney and on the mainland is planned for this week. Details of the plans have also been published on the company's website www.sercoferries.co.uk. Serco will retain the NorthLink Ferries brand and appoint a locally-based management team.
Jamie Ross, Business Development Director at Serco, said: "We are delighted to have been chosen by Transport Scotland to operate the lifeline services to the Northern Isles. Serco has considerable experience in operating critical transport services. We will build on the strengths of the current NorthLink operation and will introduce a variety of improvements to the services.
"We are now letting interested parties know what they can expect from Serco and will be visible in the local communities as we make preparations to start.
"We will ensure there is a smooth handover. As part of that we will maintain the current passenger and freight ferry timetable until the end of this year, before introducing new operational timetables from January 2013. In creating the new timetables we have looked closely at the variations in demand across the year, which identified a need for an enhanced service during peak seasons and holidays.
"There will be no change to the currently published fare prices in 2012. Going forward Scottish Ministers will continue to approve fares on an annual basis.
"In the medium term we will propose a more customer focused fares system that will allow passengers to seek lower prices throughout the year if they are flexible with their time of travel.
"Our fares structure will benefit residents, with advance booking discounts and a new loyalty scheme, as well as continuation of a friends and family offer. We will also do more, both through fares and marketing, to attract visitors.
"Passengers will enjoy a better onboard experience with far more choice. We will modernise the onboard catering, entertainment and seating offer.
"Serco has listened to the demands of freight customers, including the critical livestock and seafood sectors. We will be meeting representatives soon to discuss our plans. We would like to stress that while we have made changes to freight ship service schedules according to seasonality, our overall freight service will see an increase of the core summer freight timetable from 18 to 22 sailings per week.
"We will have two freight vessels chartered to us throughout the year which will allow the flexibility to provide extra capacity in the low season if required by sustained trends in demand.
"We will shortly begin discussions with existing NorthLink Ferries staff who will be eligible to transfer to Serco under TUPE regulations."
Throughout the start-up period we will continue to update www.sercoferries.co.uk with new information and details about our exciting new offering.