THE new operator of the Northern Isles state-subsidised ferry routes has officially taken over the service.
Serco Ferries took over from Northlink Ferries on Thursday when it will operate ferry services between Orkney and Shetland and the mainland UK for the next six years.
The company will operate six sailings a day between Scrabster and Stromness until the end of the year but plans to decrease these to four during the winter season, beginning in 2013.
Serco Ferries will also operate sailings between Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick.
Stuart Garrett was appointed as managing director of Serco NorthLink Ferries last month.
Mr Garrett said he is looking forward to ongoing engagement with the local community as they make enhancements to the vital lifeline ferry service.
“This is a lifeline service that needs to be delivered with care but it is also set for growth in passengers and freight which is what Serco plans to do for the benefit of Islanders, businesses, tourism and the government,” he said.
Serco Ferries beat off competition from six other bids to secure the £243 million contract that runs until 2018.