Letters / Whalsay transport link ‘most in need of an upgrade’

It was recently reported in the media that the chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise had made a visit to Shetland.

‘Time is right’ to consider fixed links, HIE chief says

This was news to our Whalsay Community Council who were not made aware of this visit beforehand. We were disappointed that we were denied the opportunity to meet Mr Black as there are many issues within our community that we would have liked to have discussed with him.

We were also surprised to read that the front runners for fixed links in Shetland, were now to connect Unst to Yell and Yell to the Shetland mainland, despite the fact that local residents in Whalsay had sourced three offers plus funding within the last decade, for the construction of a fixed link between Whalsay and the Shetland mainland.

All of those offers were dismissed by the SIC, after flawed figures and calculations were presented to the councillors by SIC officials.


The Whalsay ferry service with its three terminals on the route, which are all long overdue for replacement; along with the oldest SIC inter island ferry, (now 20 years beyond its initial replacement date) which is still in service on the five to seven mile open waters Whalsay route.

Passengers travelling to Whalsay on this old ferry, with no disabled access to its passenger saloon or toilets, will arrive in Whalsay to the sight of a ferry terminal waiting room and toilets overlooking the ferry berth, where they will find on closer inspection the waiting room in a dilapidated condition with no disabled access to either it or the public toilets.

It seems very strange that the island transport link most in need of an upgrade, should be pushed to the back of the queue once again – is this a coincidence or is there some unknown reason why this should continue to happen?


If the SIC are to replace the obsolete Whalsay ferries infrastructure and dated ferries with new ferries fit for purpose in the 21st century, the ferries will be extremely expensive to build.

Especially if they move away from fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce the vessels carbon footprint, the costs will increase substantially with the inclusion of the necessary shoreside refuelling infrastructure for whatever alternative type of fuel is chosen.

These refuelling facilities may require to be supplied at each of the three ferry terminals on the route. The renewed diesel powered ferry service in Yell Sound, built less than two decades ago as an alternative to a tunnel, has proven to be over ten times more costly to run than the estimated tunnel running cost.

This shows that whatever ferry and fuel option might be chosen for the Whalsay route, being roughly twice the length of the Yell sound ferry route, would prove to be much more costly to run than a fixed link to Whalsay.

Letter on behalf of Whalsay Community Council



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