Fixed links – ‘Yes we want it, now get on with it’

Folk taking part in an online discussion on fixed links have shown overwhelming support for the infrastructure to be developed as soon as possible.

More than 95 per cent of those viewing the” Tunnel Vision” presentation said they were in favour.

Even when asked whether they would still support fixed links if tolls were required, the respondents showed almost the same level of approval.

The event was hosted today (Saturday) by Shetland politicians Alistair Carmichael and Beatrice Wishart.

Summarising the poll response, Mr Carmichael said: “Yes we want it, now get on with it.”

Guest speakers were North Isles councillor and ZetTrans chairman Ryan Thomson, tunnel engineering expert Andy Sloan and Faroese representative Sigurd Lamhauge.

Mr Thomson said “political buy-in” was essential to getting fixed links but the talks with Scottish government and Transport Scotland had been “frustratingly” slow.

He said it was not appropriate for the SIC, or any local authority, to be expected fund fixed links with its reserves, and financial support from UK or Scottish government was essential.

Although fixed links have been a council policy for a number of years Mr Thomson said it was now time for the SIC to “up our game” and move it up the agenda.

Prof Sloan has more than 35 years experience working on fixed links, including the Bressay proposals from several years ago.

He said tunnels were feasible as an engineering project, the only question was over “political appetite”.

“It’s for the local people to make the case and take it to government,” he said.

Prof Sloan also highlighted the carbon credentials of building tunnels to cut ferry journeys, as well as their low impact on marine wildlife.

Mr Lamhauge, a director of Landsverk, which oversees land-based transport infrastructure in Faroe, including tunnels, offered some insights into the benefits they have provided there.

He said the main reasons for tunnels were to reduce travel time and to integrate the Faroe labour market into a single entity.

He provided statistics showing how remote islands, which had previously struggled with ageing populations and low incomes, saw these trends reverse following the creation of tunnels. Populations became more economically resilient, he said. 

The cost of using the Faroese tunnels was at first around the same as a ferry journey but over time as usage increased, tolls were slashed to less than a fifth of that.

Now, Mr Lamhauge said the debate was about whether to cut the tolls altogether.

The meeting also heard questions from pupils at Mid Yell and Whalsay schools as well as input from some of the 150 or so people viewing the debate.

Among the biggest subjects for debate was where would the first tunnel be built

Currently there are four connections deemed feasible for fixed links – Unst, Yell, Whalsay and Bressay.

Mr Lamhauge said it took around 10 years to get such projects going. 

More coverage of the debate will feature in the next edition of The Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • Dag Tulloch

    • February 7th, 2022 13:38

    What is most incredible is that a Mr Jack Moore whom was on the SIC spoke of fixed links allready in the 1950’s. So now nearly 70 years has passed.
    Here in Norway toll roads is common to finance such projects…get the funding from the Scottish Gov and get on with it. Give the Shetland people freedom of movement.

  • Dag Tulloch

    • February 7th, 2022 14:21

    In the article Mr Lamhauge said it took around 10 years to get such projects going. As i understand, fixed link survies has allready been, so the planning phase should be extremely short.


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