Call for councillor-official working group to win funding for Whalsay tunnel

A group of 10 councillors is proposing the formation of a working group to try to secure funding for a tunnel to Whalsay to replace the existing ferry service.

In a motion to go before next Wednesday’s Full Council the group, which includes Betty Fullerton, Gary Robinson, Jonathan Wills, Robert Henderson, Cecil Smith and Jim Budge, are suggesting that six elected members join head of finance Graham Johnston, executive director of infrastructure Gordon Greenhill and head of economic development Neil Grant to “explore all methods and sources of possible funding of the cost of construction of a tunnel to Whalsay”. This would include potential external funding streams and investment opportunities.

The working group would then report back to the council on 30th June.

Feelings continue to run high in Whalsay over the issue, particularly in light of reports by Mr Johnston and head of transport Michael Craigie, which are to be discussed by a special meeting of the council’s infrastructure at a meeting on 28th May.

The officials concluded that a tunnel to Whalsay would be too expensive for the council 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.

They said the basic capital cost of a fixed link would be between £76 million and £83 million, £23-28 million more than for the ferry service.

The officials also told members they saw 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 when the estimated remaining lifespan of the existing terminal at Symbister is five years.


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