Ferry travel concessions for eligible passengers will be offered in the form of digital vouchers for the first time.

The ferry vouchers, providing free passenger travel to and from the Scottish mainland or, will no longer be issued in paper form.

Instead, vouchers will be stored electronically on eligible residents’ National Entitlement Card (also known as ‘Saltirecard’ or ‘free bus pass’ or Young Scot card).

This means eligible residents will carry one card when travelling by bus or when using their four free ferry trips per annum.

Digital ferry vouchers will be ready to add onto residents’ cards from 1 March 2024, and available for use from 1 April up until 31 March 2025.

Transport Scotland’s move to digital ferry vouchers means residents will need to ‘collect’ (add) them to their National Entitlement Card each year.

This can be done at any point before travel and does not prevent advance booking. The digital ferry vouchers are downloaded using the Transport Scot Pass Collect App on a ‘smartphone’.

For residents who are having difficulty or do not have a smartphone, this can be carried out by a friend, relative, or local council administrators.

Transport Scotland will issue a letter and information sheet to all eligible concessionary residents this month.

One council pledged to help residents make the transition.

Laura Cromarty, transportation service manager, Orkney Islands Council, said: “We’re aware this might feel like a big change for concessionary residents, so we’re planning to hold some sessions where people can get help adding the vouchers to their cards and will publicise these soon.

“Don’t worry if you cannot add your vouchers to your card – ferry staff will be able to do it with their ticket machine when you travel. Just make sure you have your NEC card with you on the ferry. To redeem a voucher, your NEC card will be scanned by ferry staff on a card reader just like when you travel on the bus.

“We’d also stress the importance of letting the Council’s Transportation Service know if you have moved in the last 12 months or so – as around 60-80 ferry vouchers are unclaimed each year, due to out-of-date addresses.

“If you are not sure that the address held for you is up-to-date please get in touch with the Council’s Transportation Service so we can check for you and change it if necessary”.