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Transport / No news yet on Fair Isle ferry funding bid

The Fair Isle ferry Good Shepherd IV is due to be replaced by 2026. Photo: SIC

SHETLAND Islands Council is still in the “waiting process” regarding hearing whether a funding bid for a new Fair Isle ferry has been successful.

Leader Emma Macdonald said the local authority is hopeful it will hear back by the end of the year.

“But we do recognise that things have been changing in government and this has had an impact on timelines,” she said.

The council has bid for more than £25 million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund for a new ferry plus harbour upgrades in Fair Isle and Grutness in Shetland’s South Mainland.

The current vessel Good Shepherd IV is over 30 years old, and does not meet current accessibility standards. It takes around two and a half hours to take the boat to Fair Isle.

A consultation is opening into the infrastructure works, with people able to leave comments online from 5 December.

Events will also be held at the Fair Isle school on Monday (5 December) between 10am and 2pm, and at the Sumburgh Hotel on Tuesday from 2pm to 6.30pm.

The full cost for the entire project has previously been estimated at around £28 million.

If the council is successful in its funding bid it is proposed that the council pledges ten per cent – £2.8 million – itself.

It was the second time the council applied for Levelling Up funding for the project, with the first bid turned down – but feedback was given by the government.

It would see a larger vessel introduced on the route with increased access and freight handling capability, as well as the introduction of roll on/roll off (Ro-Ro) services.

The number of passengers would be limited to 12, but there would be improved reliability.

This may enable an increased in the number of timetabled sailings by one to two per week.

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The preferred option with the harbours its to provide linkspans at both Fair Isle and Grutness.

A 2019 survey with Fair Isle residents found that 85 per cent of folk did not think the current air and ferry connections to the mainland are sufficient for their family’s day-to-day needs, now and in future.

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