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Transport / Tresta and Sound Brae speed limit trials to start soon, council insists

Tresta. Photo: Shetland News
Tresta. Photo: Shetland News

LOWER speed limit trials in Tresta and at the south exit of Lerwick are due to be introduced in “swift fashion” after delays due to problems with monitoring equipment.

Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said the hope is that the speed limits will be in force in the next few weeks.

It comes after frustration among councillors – and some members of the public – over delays caused by faulty equipment designed to monitor active travel movements.

Councillors’ concern incidentally came a day before a road accident in Tresta on Wednesday morning.

The plan in Tresta is to temporarily drop the speed limit on the main road from 60mph to 50mph during an 18 month trial.

Local residents have consistently highlighted that the A971 there is a dangerous stretch of road, with more than 70 people signing a petition last year calling on the council to drop the limit.

Sandsound resident Mike Bennett told Shetland News there was disappointment in the community that it has taken more than a year for the 50mph limit to be introduced.

Meanwhile the limit at Sound Brae in Lerwick will temporarily drop from 40mph to 30mph, while drivers will be told to go no more than 50mph between the Black Gaet junction at the entrance to Lerwick.

The monitoring equipment brought in for the schemes aimed to see what impact there may be on active travel such as walking or cycling.

But at a meeting of the environment and transport committee on Tuesday there was frustration over the lack of progress.

Roads manager Dave Coupe said the monitoring equipment paid for by walking and cycling charity Sustrans was put in place ahead of the speed limits lowering, but it did not work right.

“My intention is to nevertheless to press on now with installation of the speed limits and we will bring monitoring equipment – either we will get the existing one that we do have online working, or we will send it back, get our money back and use a different system,” he said.

The council previously said there had been delays due to SSE staff, who would assist with installing the monitoring equipment, being busy with other work.

Officials were told at Tuesday’s meeting that the issue of the speed limits has been a regular topic of discussion at community councils.

Shetland West member Catherine Hughson said regarding the Tresta scheme: “Folk in Sandsound cannot wait for this to happen.”

Coupe said though that the council had not received any direct representation from the public on the matter – although Lerwick South member Peter Campbell noted he had relayed concerns from the town community himself to the roads department.

There is also worry in the westside particularly around how the 18-month trial in Tresta is now linked to active travel.

The trial at the south end of Shetland had always had active travel as a key factor, but the Tresta limit originally stemmed from the residents’ petition over safety.

Thomson said the speed limit trials are not being introduced for road safety as such – but they are there to see how a lower speed could encourage active travel.

But Bennett believed active travel should be the “byproduct of the safety move rather than the defining reason”.

“There is a lot of strong feeling in the area that the speed limit should be put in place for safety reasons and not to satisfy the conditions of various projects,” he said.