Transport / North Isles councillor says speed of setting up meeting with tunnel groups is ‘very disappointing’

Tunnels like this one in Faroe are seen by some as the way forward. Photo: UK Government

A NORTH Isles councillor says he is disappointed at the initial pace of a £700,000 project which would lead to business cases for possible ferry replacements and fixed links.

Robert Thomson was referring to how it has taken longer than anticipated for the council to set up a meeting with tunnel action groups in Shetland’s island communities.

A meeting is now scheduled for 8 June but Shetland Islands Council’s development director Neil Grant told a meeting of the local authority’s environment and transport committee on Monday that this was later than originally hoped.

Back in March councillors approved a budget of £700,000 for a transport strategy which would explore Shetland’s future transport needs.

This would progress the development of business cases, which could include tunnels.

It will be funded from the council’s annual allocation from the distribution of Crown Estate revenue.

North Isles councillor Robert Thomson. Photo: Shetland News

A project board has been set up, but Grant said: “I’ve not made the progress on this project that I had certainly intended.”

A senior project manager is being sourced for the 18-month scheme.

The meeting heard one person is to be sought externally for the project and another will be brought in internally.

Grant said there needs to be a significant level of internal resources to manage the project in addition to having external expertise brought in.

He added that there was nothing to suggest the budget set for the project was not sufficient for what was required.

Development committee chairman Dennis Leask suggested additional funding may need to be sought in the future, but Grant reiterated that the project at the moment only gets the SIC up to the business case stage.

The development director said tendering for work involved in the project has been delayed.

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When the £700,000 budget was approved Councillor Thomson successfully added that community members would be involved in the process as part of a sounding board.

He said a date of 10 April was originally mentioned for a meeting with tunnel groups, although some leeway was given.

“Unfortunately it has taken another two months before the first meeting is planned,” Thomson said. “I think it’s very disappointing.”

He added that he felt it has not increased the SIC’s status among the communities involved.

“I think we really need to do better in the future,” Thomson said.

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