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Transport / Islanders asked to have their say in fixed links discussion

Local Lib Dem politicians Beatrice Wishart MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP. Photos: Shetland News

AN ONLINE discussion event on fixed links in Shetland is to be held in early February with the aim of evaluating local interest in developing tunnels.

The Tunnel Vision event is being organised by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

People in Unst, Yell, Bressay, Papa Stour, Fetlar and Whalsay have all been promised a say in the event.

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Letter invitations have been sent to islanders and council representatives, with the meeting taking place at 2pm on Saturday 5 February.

Fixed links are seen by many as transport links of the future for some of Shetland’s islands, with the council ferries ageing quickly whilst at the same time causing a sizeable chunk of the local authority’s carbon emissions.

The invite for the discussion event also said that “fixed links between our island communities have the potential to be transformative for Shetland, making our transport connections faster, less vulnerable to bad weather and other disruption, and, in the long term, less expensive”.

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Tunnels for Unst, Yell and Whalsay have been mooted in the past as the most viable options, but funding for any fixed link project is a major stumbling block.

The Tunnel Vision event will be hosted by the isles’ political representatives with expert speakers Prof Andrew Sloan, visiting professor of civil and environmental engineering at Strathclyde University and Sigurd Lamhauge, Faroese director of Landsverk, which oversees land-based transport infrastructure, including tunnels.

Islanders are invited to RSVP by calling 01595 690044, or emailing andrew.emmerson@parliament.uk

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If people cannot attend because of poor broadband connection or any other reason then they can write to 171 Commercial St, Lerwick ZE1 0HX or by e-mail on Carmichaela@parliament.uk

A recording of the event will be made available afterwards.

Wishart said: “Fixed links have long been discussed and we are at a crossroads with many lifeline ferries requiring retirement.

“Fixed links could be transformative for Shetland. “There are many aspirations and varying needs of each island community which will be important to listen to in this infrastructure debate.

“That is what I hope we can start to address with our event.”

Carmichael said: “Discussions on the potential benefits of fixed links started years ago but we have never had a broad debate or agreement on whether tunnel connections are right for our communities, or how they might be implemented on an island-by-island basis.

“This event is just the start of the conversation but it is a conversation whose time has surely come. I would encourage anyone with an interest in these issues to join the event and get involved.”

Meanwhile North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson last week stressed his vision for fixed links as he announced his intention to stand for election again in May.

He said they are “now essential, not only for islanders, but for the whole of Shetland, our economy, our environment and our society”.

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