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Letters / It wouldn’t have happened with a tunnel in place

I was deeply concerned when reading the recent report on an 79 year old woman being left “absolutely numb with cold” after having to sit on a chair on the open deck of a Whalsay ferry due to poor onboard accessibility; especially as Flossie is a long-time friend to so many of us in the Whalsay community.

Accessibility issue leaves 79-year-old sitting ‘freezing’ on ferry deck

The Hendra is now the oldest ferry in the SIC fleet and for passengers with mobility issues, access to the toilets and passenger saloon is extremely difficult if not impossible, which comes as no surprise as at over 40 years of age it has now run for more than twice its initial envisaged life term of 20 years.

A replacement ferry for Whalsay was proposed over 12 years ago, but was dismissed by the councillors who favoured the construction of a tunnel as our islands transport link and instructed their SIC officialdom to progress with their decision.

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This decision was made in 2010 after councillors realised how much it had cost to build the ferry service in Yell Sound, which did cost more between the years of 2002 to 2006 than the proposed cost for a tunnel.

Councillors’ decision to pursue the construction of a Whalsay tunnel, backed by a large majority in a poll of the community; has obviously been dismissed by SIC officialdom, as they continue to promote a ferry service for Whalsay and have made no progress to improve the present service with even as little as a new waiting room or public toilets with disabled access, however they have recently provided a toilet in a small shed that does have disabled access.

The fact is that under the watchful eye of ZetTrans, most of Shetland’s inter-island ferries are long overdue for replacement.

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If only councillors would not have believed the advice of council officials, that those ferries and terminals in Yell Sound could be built for £19.4 million as an alternative to the construction of a tunnel for £26.9 million in 2002/03 to a worst case cost of £32.5 million, instead of building those ferries and terminals for £37.1 million which was nearly double the SIC officials estimated cost.

Additionally, there was the significant cost of running the Yell Sound ferries, at £5.8 million during 2015/16 with those running costs rising by over 41 per cent to 2022 figures.

Perhaps with a tunnel, a passenger with mobility issues would not need to be left sitting out in the cold on route to Whalsay.

William Polson
Whalsay

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