By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
SALARY savings as a result of recruitment shortages should help the council maintain key transport services without significant disruption, the infrastructure committee heard this week.
The SIC is trying to solve the dilemma of saving on fuel costs without reducing services while at the same time taking into account a recent consultation with communities which showed that in many cases transport needs are not being met.
Options have been grouped into three sections. The first would have little or no impact and be easy to implement, the second would require a “restructuring of resources” with “significant” reductions of services and the third would have “major impact”, with a reduction in public transport potentially affecting whole communities and causing job losses.
Among the “easy to implement” suggestions are to reduce the speed of ferries without impact on the timetables, which could potentially save £160,000 per year. The length of route and the time spent at each end would be considered, as well as skippers being encouraged to travel at the optimum engine speed.
The use of engine oil additives could save £120,000 per year and “optimising” the number of crew on ferries could make savings of up to £100,000 per year.
Dredging the south mouth of the harbour at Skerries could save £14,500 per year, although £185,000 capital spend would be required. Removing rocks forming high points in the harbour would mean that the shortest route to Skerries could be used in any weather conditions.
Transport chief Michael Craigie said that suggestions in the first category should be implemented. According to council papers salary savings, together with those from the council’s vehicles, could be between £465,000 to £525,000 in a financial year.
The second and third options have not been considered yet, but councillor Rick Nickerson said he would like to know what they were.
Councillor Josie Simpson said the cost of fuel in Shetland was ridiculous, and councillor Gary Robinson made the point that the low-floor buses which have disabled access and more floor space are not well used “because nobody wants to stand”. Previously buses carried 50 people, he said, now there were only about 30 on the low-floor buses.
Regarding the STAG (Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance) reports on the Bressay, Bluemull and Whalsay links, Mr Simpson said he would like to look at all three together.
Councillor Bill Manson asked if all the information would be drawn together in March, and Mr Craigie said it was crucial that this was done.
Councillor Laura Baisley said, regarding the Bluemull STAG, she was surprised with the finding that the most favourable option for the crossing was not a fixed link, but to replace the Gutcher and Belmont ferry terminals and the vessels Bigga and Geira, although she welcomed the fact that building a breakwater at Fetlar was recommended.
She said it would be interesting to know what the potential users would think of a single bore, single lane tunnel, one of the suggestions mooted in the STAG.
Chairman of the infrastructure committee Allan Wishart said that the ferry services in the whole of Scotland were being surveyed, with safety and financial aspects being considered.
Significant savings have been made in council salaries this year and the meeting heard that this could be used to offset the increase in fuel costs.