By RYAN TAYLOR
THE DILAPIDATED state of Papa Stour’s main road has forced councillors to impose a vehicle weight restriction on the island.
Councillors heard this week how the roads had deteriorated rapidly since the new ferry service introduced in 2005 brought increased traffic to the island.
Before then the roads, though narrow at only 2.2 metres wide in places, were described as being “fit for purpose”.
Now, however, the island’s ancient road network – which has not been upgraded in 50 years – is fast deteriorating.
Members of the infrastructure committee on Tuesday heard calls for a weight restriction of 3.5 tonnes to be imposed on the island until improvements can be made.
Such a restriction would mean heavier vehicles such as cement lorries or oil tankers would be prohibited from driving on Papa, at least beyond the first 60 metres at the ferry terminal.
Objections had poured in to the council from residents on the island, pointing out three and a half tonnes was roughly the equivalent of one Land Rover towing a trailer behind it.
Shetland South member Jim Budge, who himself farms at Bigton, said a good modern day tractor would weigh between four to five tonnes, meaning “life would stand still” if a 3.5 tonne limit was imposed. A limit of 7.5 tonnes was more realistic.
Shetland West councillor Frank Robertson said residents in Papa had requested a weight restriction in May 2005 – shortly before the new ferry was introduced.
“They were concerned about the state of the road and heavy vehicles coming on to the island,” he said.
Nothing was done however, and since then the community council has made repeated requests for a weight restriction to be introduced.
Mr Robertson said residents had been “taken aback” by the limit being proposed, particularly as they had “gotten used to taking in reasonable sized loads” from the ferry.
“I spoke to Papa Stour folk at the weekend, and they said they could live with a weight restriction – because they asked for it – but only for a limited time.”
The council’s network and design manager David Macnae said under the limit of 3.5 tonnes a trailer would count as a separate vehicle from the one towing it.
He added certain cars entering Papa, such as Scottish Water vehicles coming off the ferry to carry out sewerage work, could be exempt if it had prior approval from the head of roads.
Obtaining approval could involve the applicant coming to an arrangement with the council, whereby it would pay for any damage caused to the roads.
North Isles councillor Robert Henderson said the limit should be set on the axle weight of the vehicle, in line with practices common in the haulage industry.
That view was considered too difficult to enforce by his fellow councillors, who voted by 15 votes to two in favour of Mr Budge.
The news came as the SIC applied for planning application to realign the road on Papa necessary to carry out road works near the primary school.