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Transport / Levenwick road upgrade process in line to move to next stage

The estimated capital cost of the preferred option has risen by around one third to £4.3 million

The A970 at Levenwick. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

PLANS to upgrade the main road at Levenwick is likely to move one step closer to receiving the go-ahead as councillors consider the project again this week.

The process will move to a full business case if it gets the support of the full council at a meeting on Wednesday.

If the full business case, which could come before councillors in the new year, is approved then the project would go ahead.

However, the estimated capital cost of the preferred option for upgrading the A970 at Levenwick has increased by around 30 per cent.

But Shetland South member George Smith told a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Monday that “we can’t really measure the cost of human life in pounds and pence”.

Elected members agreed in the summer to progress improvements to the A970 at Levenwick, with a report picking widening the road and installing crash barriers as the preferred way forward.

That initial report said it would cost around £3.3 million, but now the capital estimate is £4.3 million. Borrowing would also increase the overall spend.

Safety concerns have been raised for a number of years, with the accident rate at this stretch of road greater than national and local averages.

With a width of around 5.4 metres, compared to the current design standard of 6.8 metres, it is among the narrowest sections of two-lane road in Shetland.

The verge is also narrow, while there are three blind summits.

Shetland South member Allison Duncan, who himself was involved in a road accident there a few years ago, said he has fought for road improvements since 2007.

He has previously called the piece of road a “death trap” and described the potential upgrade as “long overdue”.

He encouraged council staff to press on with the process of land acquisition.

Meanwhile North Isles member Ryan Thomson, who chairs the council’s environment and transport committee, also stressed the need to investigate potential sources of external funding as soon as possible.

An outline business case on the plans highlights that under the preferred option it “may be possible to provide a remote foot/cyclepath with the assistance of grant funding from Sustrans”.

There are concerns, however, that the gradient of much of the road may mean this is not practical unless there is relaxation in design guidance.