New road layout proposed to reduce accidents

The junction at the Brig o’ Fitch could be altered in a bid to reduce accidents in a notorious black spot.

The recommendation to install a “splitter island” was agreed by councillors at a meeting of the environment and transport committee. They were told by roads chief Colin Gair that the spot, where traffic to and from Lerwick and Scalloway converges, is on a tight bend as well as having a junction.

Mr Gair said: “There are ongoing problems with accidents with drivers from Scalloway pulling out in front of northbound traffic.”

He added: “People are getting it wrong on a regular basis. A splitter island would encourage [motorists] to almost stop before entering the traffic stream.”

According to council papers, the A970 Brig o’ Fitch junction is the busiest in Shetland, with 9,400 vehicles passing through it daily. There have been 12 “injury accidents” at the site since 2000 and 18 accidents where nobody was injured.

Most occur at the busier times of day, and none were recorded in the hours of darkness or in fog. Although visibility is described by the council as “very good” in both directions, drivers emerging have misjudged the gaps in the northbound traffic while on the approach to the junction, and have turned without stopping.

The splitter island, which would encourage motorists to slow down, would have illuminated bollards and would be built on the A970 heading to Scalloway.

It would require some minor re-alignment of the junction kerb lines and re-location of the crash barrier on the south-east side of the junction.

However, there is no funding for this work, which would cost an estimated £30,000 and would have to be considered under the council’s “gateway process” for capital project prioritisation.

Meanwhile the crash barrier at the junction will be replaced this summer in a new line to suit the potential splitter island.

The A970 Black Gaet junction at Gulberwick was also considered at the meeting. This has the same features, being both a junction and a tight bend, but no remedial action is to be taken at this time.

The junction is not quite as busy as the other, having 7,200 vehicles passing through each day. Since 2000 there have been three “injury accidents” at this spot, while every year the junction has between one and three “non-injury” accidents – 19 since 2000.

There is one main type of accident at this junction – vehicles on the A970 turning right in front of northbound traffic.

The junction already has countdown signs, a splitter island with bollards and buff-coloured high-grip surface. However accidents on three occasions have cited low sun and mist as contributory factors.

Consideration has been given by the roads department into siting a speed-activated warning sign at this junction, but it was not felt to be justified due to the “low level” of accidents. The sign would cost £15,000 – the cost due to the need for an electricity supply.

George Smith
George Smith

However councillor George Smith asked how much each accident cost the council, in terms of repairing signage and barriers and mopping up oil spills. He maintained it might be worth getting a sign, and said: “What is the cost to the council of not doing it?”

Head of infrastructure Maggie Sandison said her department could look at the number of man-hours involved in non-injury accidents, and the possibility of getting a sign in the “spend to save” scheme.

Mr Smith said it could pay for itself.


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