Tomorrow’s special meetings of the infrastructure committee and the Full Council to discuss the future of the transport link to Whalsay have been cancelled. The Norwegian tunnelling experts who were due to give a presentation on the costs of a fixed link have been unable to travel because of the volcanic ash from Iceland which has grounded flights across Europe.
The ongoing disruption to travel means no new date can be set yet, but this will be agreed when the situation returns to normal.
Councillors are being told that a tunnel to Whalsay would be too expensive and the idea should be abandoned in favour of building a new ferry terminal at North Voe, upgrading the Laxo and Vidlin terminals and buying a new, larger ferry to share the route with the Linga.
In separate reports, head of finance Graham Johnston and head of transport Michael Craigie reveal that the basic capital cost of a fixed link would be between £76 million and £83 million, £23-28 million more than for the improved ferry service.
The officials have also told members they see no prospect of significant funding for a tunnel from the Scottish government while European funding “is likely to be limited to relatively small contributions if any”.
And it would take at least eight years to develop and build a tunnel, which would have to be 6.3km rather than the 5.5km first mooted, when the estimated remaining lifespan of the existing terminal at Symbister is five years.
A group of officials and councillors met the Norwegian experts in Glasgow last month.