Fixed links between isles one of meetings hot topics

The growing urgency for inter-island fixed transportation links was just one of the issues discussed during a lengthy Shetland Islands Council Environment and Transport Committee online meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

First up was an overview of the environment and transport performance.

Building maintenance and capital works projects have been hit by Covid restrictions with only 67 per cent of maintenance works being completed on time. Capital expenditure on construction related works has also suffered for a variety of Covid-related issues with barely a third of the £1.1 million 20/21 budget being used.

The weather too was a factor in holding up scheduled work.

Fixed links transport options were also discussed at length with the councillors agreeing that now is the time come together to leverage funding from the Scottish government for large inter-isle connectivity projects, such as bridges or tunnels.

North Isles councillor Alec Priest said that a lack of action now would be costly for the future.

He said: “We really need to focus pressure on this and we need a focused campaign on the human and business factors that are needed for developing tunnels in Shetland or else the government might end up just sleepwalking into condemning the next one, two or maybe three generations of Shetlanders into being restricted by ferries.”

Also on the agenda was the committee’s budget which included a 2.1 per cent pay increase for staff, £23.1 million on infrastructure projects and £6.7  million for transport planning.

The budget was approved.

Reducing residents’ reliance on transportation via active travel, walking and cycling, and infrastructure to allow those activities was also a hot topic.

The Zet Trans Active Transport budget of £60k was approved last week and will be used to develop plans for active transport projects on the isles, funding of which will be applied for from central government.

Michael Craige lead officer at Zet Trans said: “I’ve no doubt there will be funds available, and we are looking to secure that.”

A full round-up will be published in this week’s Shetland Times.


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