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Transport / ‘It makes no sense at all’: councillors keen to see Whiteness-Weisdale road prioritised

Photo © Google 2022

FRESH calls have been made for progress on improving the road between Whiteness and Weisdale – with one councillor saying it “makes no sense at all” the project is at the bottom of a priority list.

The Haggersta to Cova road has long been a bug-bear of councillors in the area due to its tight width and blind summits.

Elected members were told this week that a proposed upgrade is ranked last on the council’s strategic road network programme, which lists six potential future major road improvements.

This is despite the council previously designing improvements many years ago, and even purchasing land for the upgrade. But delays in the scheme meant the project never went ahead.

Speaking at a meeting of the SIC’s environment and transport committee, new Shetland West councillor Mark Robinson said there were a number of blind corners and summits, and that some parts are not wide enough for two large vehicles to pass.

Shetland West councillor Mark Robinson. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

“I fail to see why, when the work has all been done, the land has all been bought…why is this section of road still sitting in sixth place on this list,” he said. “To me it makes no sense at all.”

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson has been a long supporter of improvements to the road, and she told the meeting: “I would make a plea that we revisit the ranking of the schemes so that members can look at them again and decide if the current ranking is still valid.”

A report to councillors said drafting of a strategic outline case for the improvements could take place after the projects ranked higher go through the same process.

When Hughson asked for a possible timescale, road asset and network team leader Neil Hutcheson said: “I think we’re basically working through the list as prioritised, as ranked.

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“It is sixth – so unfortunately in last place. But as I said, when we do get to that work it won’t take very long, and we’re progressing through the other schemes. I don’t see those taking overly long.”

He said all that remains to be done is the check of the design, which would probably only be three months work.

A report is also due to be presented to councillors next year on a proposal to introduce a 50mph speed limit from Stebbigrind to join into the limit already set at Cova through to Shetland Jewellery.

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson.

At the top of the strategic list is the already approved £5 million Cullivoe road upgrade in Yell, which could begin construction in 2024.

The planning consent application is due to be submitted next year.

Second on the list is the road at Levenwick, which already has the general backing of councillors. A more detailed design has been worked up, but it still needs its final business case approved.

The update to councillors also showed that a strategic outline case will be presented next year on improvements to the A971 between West Burrafirth and Walls.

The A971 ‘Murraster Bend’ is also included in this scheme.

Also on the roads programme is the B9081 Mid Yell link road, which is part of the route used to haul salmon from Cullivoe Pier to the processing factory in Mid Yell.

Next on the list is the A970 heading towards Hillswick from the Ollaberry junction.

Committee chair Moraig Lyall agreed with Hughson and Robinson about the Haggersta/Cova road, saying it being at the bottom of the list felt out of kilter.

She also spoke up for the progress made towards constructing the new Cullivoe road.

With a magnifying glass on the council’s finances ahead of February’s budget setting, Lyall said: “I would really love to think that as a council we would take the decision to press on with this development and not be tempted to put the brakes on it.”

Meanwhile Shetland South member Alex Armitage questioned the merit of the preferred option of the Levenwick road, which is a new 6.8 metre wide two-lane road at an estimated cost of more than £4 million.

He suggested the key problem was the blind summit, and spoke up for the idea of improving the road at that point – but imposing a 50mph limit on the rest of the section.

The meeting heard that was not picked as the preferred option as there were accidents elsewhere in the road, which were associated with the lack of safety barrier.

Barriers cannot be fitted at the moment because the road is not wide enough.

The meeting also heard that Shetland’s overall road condition indicator is now at 34.1 per cent of roads “that should be considered for maintenance”. This puts the isles in the bottom half of the league table of Scottish local authorities.

But the figure for A-class roads is ranked first in Scotland.

A report to councillors suggested overall progress is “levelling out” and the “rate of deterioration is now balanced by the rate at which we can undertake repairs”.

It added: “However, we are of the opinion that the continued targeting of existing resources at the ‘B class’, ‘C class’ and unclassified roads will yield improvement in the near to medium term.”

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