Four eight foot-wide trailers were dispatched to the isles last night following a restriction on the width of lorries carrying heavy boulders to Sumburgh.
An 18-month traffic regulation order was imposed by Shetland Islands Council after concerns large trucks operated by Northern Irish firm Gills were proving too wide for the narrow road between Levenwick and Robin’s Brae.
Until now trucks with nine-foot wide trailers often ferrying two massive boulders reportedly weighing 25 tonnes each have been pounding the roads. The rocks are to help in the repair operation to Sumburgh Airport’s runway extension.
South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan said residents had expressed fears an embankment may give way if restrictions were not put in place. There could, he said, have been serious consequences if a rock had gone over the bank and headed to other roads or nearby houses.
“It appeared these vehicles were now going over the middle of the carriageway – the middle line,” he said.
“When drivers were meeting them they were concerned for their own safety and, from my perspective, I was concerned should there be a bus carrying, for example, school children or a lorry, when they would both meet on the narrow road which is only 5.5 metres in width on that blind summit.”
Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited have said the rock armour deliveries were being made by road on “practical and safety grounds”.
In a statement HIAL said: “The alternative was to try to land the deliveries close to the work site by barge. However, this has proved unsuitable given the weight and size of the rocks, project timescales and the potential risk to safety.
“The runway at Sumburgh Airport is a critical part of the Shetland Isles transport infrastructure and it is vital that we ensure the repairs are carried out in a timely fashion, before weather conditions deteriorate.
“This has necessitated the use of lorries to speed up the transfer process. Nevertheless we appreciate the concerns of local residents and will work with the site contractors to minimise the impact of these essential deliveries.”