With less than a week to go until our first Making Connections workshop, we’ve been busy planning for the event. This first workshop, and the journey that follows it, will look at the connections passengers navigate when taking the train and the boat in Aberdeen. For this, we’ve teamed up with NorthLink Ferries, who sail from Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland.
Founded in 2006 and operated by Serco since 2012, NorthLink runs three of the lifeline services from the Scottish mainland to the Northern Isles: the Hamnavoe which sails from Scrabster to Orkney, and the Hrossey and Hjaltland, which sail from Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland. The boats’ Scandinavian-sounding names come from their destinations: Hamnavoe was the Norse term for Stromness, meaning ‘safe harbour’; Hrossey comes from the old Viking name for the Orkney mainland, ‘horse-island’; and Hjaltland was the 16th-century Norn precursor of Shetland.
While the trip from Scrabster to Stromness is a short crossing of an hour and a half, passengers taking the Aberdeen route have a longer journey, either six or thirteen hours. For many people, this will not be the whole journey - we’re interested in what happens when people first travel to Aberdeen, before changing onto the boat. With the railway station in the centre of town and the harbour the boat leaves from slightly outside of it, does this present a barrier to travelling for disabled people? If so, how can this be mitigated?
NorthLink are teaming up with us to help find out, and as well as joining the workshop, they’ve generously offered to host it on one of their boats. Both the Hrossey and Hjaltland are modern and comfortable, with private cabins, bars and even cinemas. We won’t get the chance to take advantage of these on Friday, but we’re excited about welcoming and learning from our participants.