Council rules on working hours have led to a delay in completing controversial works on the South Road in Lerwick which are hindering access to the health centre and hospital as well as the Lerwick Hotel.
Lerwick lifeboat coxwain Bruce Leask blamed the works for a five-minute delay in him attending an emergency call-out on Wednesday.
The delay played a part in Mr Leask deciding not to go with the lifeboat to attend a fishing boat fire off Whalsay. Instead, deputy coxswain Gary Bremner took the Michael and Jane Vernon for the first time to help out the Fairway.
Mr Leask, who dubbed the diversion “a bloody nuisance”, said that the entire crew had assembled and were ready to go by the time he had arrived. He had been diverted through Cairnfield Road and Lochside before getting to the harbour via the North Road.
There have also been concerns about congestion in Hayfield Lane, which has a 20mph limit, and other nearby residential roads which traffic has been diverted to.
However, one emergency services worker said that the roadworks, which have taken two weeks so far, had been “no major” problem as they had been notified in advance and had alternative routes worked out.
The engineer in charge of the works, Barry Scobie, said that emergency services were clear to cross any of the works if they needed to.
He added that the resurfacing had been necessary owing to the state of the road and that it had been split into two sections to ease access to the Lerwick Health Centre, the Gilbert Bain Hospital and the Lerwick Hotel. Extra signs had also been added in response to public complaints about access confusion.
Mr Scobie “hoped” work would be complete by the end of next week with tarring going ahead at the start of the week after extra drain gullies had been installed.
He said the work was on schedule and had been proceeding “as quickly as possible” within the constraints of overtime restrictions. Roadmen are currently limited to working from 7.30am to 4pm on Monday to Thursday and 7.30am to 12.30pm on Friday under the council’s rules based on the national single status agreement.
Mr Scobie had applied for a dispensation to this, allowing staff to put on road markings on Saturday on the completed section from Cairnfield Road to Gilbertson Road. He added that the further section of road from Gilbertson Road to Bell’s Road would be opened after tarring was completed.
SIC environment and transport committee chairman Alan Wishart gave his vote of confidence to the roads crew, saying that he was sure they were doing the best they could under trying circumstances.
He said: “These diversions are a nuisance and inconvenience, but is there an alternative? The road was in a pretty disastrous state. There were junctions to deal with, road markings and pedestrian crossings on the South Road.”
Mr Wishart said that as far as overtime went the council had a major problem with finances at the moment. “If we are overspending one hundred thousand a day then things have to change,” he added.
Mr Scobie said that he was well aware of public concerns and that any delay was regrettable and unavoidable. He also said there were limited options for diverting traffic around that section of Lerwick.
Additional design details such as extra gullies to ease drainage on the relatively flat section of road plus the use of foam concrete to cover the drainpipe that was installed a couple of years ago had also slowed the pace of the job, Mr Scobie added.