A NORTHERN Isles ferry operator has reported a 10% increase in its volume of passengers who have travelled on the route network since the firm took over running the ferry service in 2012.

NorthLink Ferries reported the passenger increase yesterday, which coincides with recent VisitScotland tourism figures which highlighted a rise in visitors to Orkney by 20% since 2013, while the number of visitors to Shetland increased by 10% over the same period.

In NorthLink Ferries’ six years of service, just under 1.8 million passengers have travelled to and from the isles, with the number of cars making the journey increasing by 28%. The operator also transported just under 3m commercial lane metres of freight traffic during the same period to July 5 this year.

Stuart Garrett of NorthLink Ferries, commented: “As well as providing a lifeline service to those who live and work on the islands, the Northern Isles ferry service is an essential part of growing the islands’ visitor economy.”