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Transport / Action group set up in Voe to tackle road safety issues

AROUND 30 local residents met in the Voe Hall on Thursday night to discuss road safety in the village – with many fearing a serious accident was just a matter of time.

The meeting comes after resident Marshall Leask went public to highlight the danger of walking along the busy A970 which runs through the centre of the village.

The first point raised, which was unanimously agreed upon by local people, was to reduce the speed limit from 50mph to 40mph. 

One man highlighted the ongoing issues on the road, saying: “I can count 12 occasions when the fence has been damaged at a bend, there’s another bend where you would be foolish to drive at 50mph. 

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“We’ve already had a crash through the crash barrier there, it’s not a 50mph road.” 

Georgia Leask, who has lived in Voe since 2020, said: “It would be no inconvenience to anyone to lower the speed limit to 40mph on the main road.” 

Another resident added at the meeting that they had timed the difference when driving at 40mph instead, stating: “You only lose 15 seconds. What’s 15 seconds?” 

Richard Douthwaite, who works at Tagon Stores, said: “You are 25 per cent less likely to die in a collision at 40mph than 50mph, it’s just common sense.” 

The A970 sees around 3,200 vehicles every day with a high number of heavy goods vehicles, and this is expected to increase with the spaceport opening in Unst. 

There have been precedents set in other parts of Shetland for 40mph speed limits, such as leaving Lerwick, Brae, and along the A970 where there could be heavy wind farm traffic. 

The meeting also heard of concern from people living along the steep road into Lower Voe.

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One resident pointed out: “Driving down that hill at 30mph is reckless, there are blind bends and drivers have to sweep into the right-hand lane to turn the corner.”

The meeting also called for an extension of a pavement from Tagon Stores to the Voe public toilets, or to the B9071 junction to Lower Voe. 

Currently, residents in Lower Voe cannot use a pavement when accessing vital amenities in the village. A crash barrier upgrade, completed last year, is making the verge even thinner, and inaccessible for those with wheelchairs, mobility scooters and prams.

Shetland Islands Council’s traffic and road safety engineer Colin Gair had previously suggested a short-term option of a path while additional funding was sought for a two metre wide pavement with lighting. 

Meanwhile, one resident pointed out the current safety concerns in crossing the A970 to access Tagon Stores, adding: “To me one of the priorities is safety to pedestrians crossing the road mainly at Tagon, which is a big problem due to visibility. 

“It’s on a bend, a 50mph road at that point is an awkward one. It’s a worry for anyone, elderly or young people, trying to cross that road at that point.” 

Andrea Manson, independent councillor for Shetland North, attended and led the meeting. She said: “Speed limits cost nothing.”

Other traffic calming measures were discussed such as adding speed monitors, an extension of the current speed restrictions, and additional signage to indicate children or elderly could be crossing. 

The action group will meet with transport consultant firm SYSTRA on Tuesday to discuss the points raised by the community.

Working with ZetTrans as part of the Shetland active travel strategy, the consultants are assessing walking and cycling routes in the North Mainland, including Voe, Mossbank and Brae. 

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