Infuriated bus drivers say takeaway customers are persistently parking in Lerwick bus station – but it has emerged there is no law against the practice.
Bus drivers say they are often unable to pull in close to the pavement at the Viking station on Commercial Road because their path is blocked by cars.
This makes getting on and off the bus particularly challenging for some older passengers and wheelchair users, as well as risking injury to children, it is claimed.
Graham Longstaff, who drives the number four bus to Scalloway, said the problem is at its worst on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“There is limited space and even when you come in when there’s not that many buses, you have got two or three cars which have parked there to use the takeaway shops and some drivers even have a meal.”
Bus driver Orri Smith, 27, from Weisdale said: “It is a big problem. It’s a daily occurrence – it’s nearly all the time.”
However, although the station land is owned by Shetland Islands Council, the authority has revealed that there is no law against anyone parking on it.
SIC’s executive manager of transport planning Michael Craigie said: “As things stand there are no parking restrictions in the Viking Bus Station but if this is becoming a persistent problem I would intend to get in touch with the bus operator and get to understand the nature of the problem and see what we can do to address that.”
Eateries nearby the station include: the adjacent JoJo’s restaurant and cafe; Raba Indian restaurant across the road; and The Great Wall Chinese restaurant and Teamore cafe next to the bus station.
Teamore cafe next to the bus station.
Mr Longstaff and his colleagues say some visitors to these premises are parking their cars in the grounds of the station before placing their orders or collecting meals – despite the presence of a sign which reads: “Strictly no parking buses only”. There are also markings underfoot reading: “Buses only”.
By ignoring the sign, motorists are making if difficult – if not impossible – for buses to drive up to the kerbside shelters at the station.
“If you’ve got an elderly person or someone with a wheelchair you can’t expect them to get off in the middle of the concourse,” said Mr Longstaff, nodding to the difficulties some can have stepping off the bus and travelling longer distances to the pavement.
Children are another concern, he said, because they risk getting injured when crossing the crowded station floor.
“I’m just waiting for the day where there’s a serious incident where somebody wants compensation,” said Mr Longstaff.
He suggests takeaway customers should instead park in one of the nearby car parks such as that behind Raba restaurant.
“We are not trying to cause animosity to drivers – we’re just saying ‘is it going to kill you to walk another couple of hundred yards from the Mareel or the SIC car park?’,” he said.
However, it seems takeaway customers are not the only motorists who have been causing Mr Longstaff headaches.
He said: “I had one incident a couple of months ago where one of the local driving instructors brought one of their charges into the bus station.
I said ‘don’t you think you should be teaching them to obey the law?’ And I looked at the young girl and said ‘I would tell your parents to stop wasting your time with this character’.”
He added: “Shetland’s driving standards are the worst I have ever encountered and I have lived in several African countries and Denmark and Norway.”
These problems prompted Mr Longstaff to contact SIC, as well as the police, but he says no action has been taken.
It turns out that despite the council’s ownership of the land and the existence of “no parking” signs, there are no legally-enforceable parking restrictions at the station.
Mr Craigie said: “The legal reality is that there’s simply advisory signs but there’s nothing currently in place that legally prevents parking in the bus station.
“But we will now look into this and take the right level of action to ensure that the bus station can work effectively – that it’s operating for the provision of bus services for the public and not for the convenience of people who want to park close to where they want to be.
“There’s plenty of parking in the vicinity which means parking in the bus station is not really necessary.”
He said the council might decide the problem can be fixed merely by speaking to regular visitors to the car park, or it might feel obliged to impose parking restrictions or remove parking rights altogether.
Meanwhile, the police say they have not been made aware of the scale of the challenge facing bus drivers.
Chief inspector Lindsay Tulloch said: “Off the top of my head I can’t think of any calls we’ve had recently. But certainly if we get any calls we will respond to them.”
He added the police would have “no problem going up and moving vehicles on” if they were causing an obstruction and said fixed penalty tickets could be issued where necessary.