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Council / Full Levenwick road upgrade still ‘very much on the table’

Photo: Shetland News

REASSURANCES have been given that a full widening of the A970 road at Levenwick remains on the table.

Shetland Islands Council’s infrastructure director John Smith told a meeting of the full SIC on Wednesday that the possible option to install barriers and improve a blind summit could be considered as way of introducing improvements to the road quicker.

“It doesn’t change the full scheme and the considerations and the timetable and funding that would be associated with that,” he said.

With the proposed Cullivoe road upgrade top of the SIC’s priority list, it would potentially be a number of years before work could actually start on widening the A970 at Levenwick.

Environment and transport committee chair Moraig Lyall also reiterated that a 50mph limit on the stretch of road has been proposed as an interim measure in the interests of safety for all road users.

The councillor added: “The full programme is still very much being looked at and very much on the table, and very much something that is a number of years away, coming as it does on the heels of the Cullivoe project.”

It comes after a bus driver showed support for the full widening of the road – using images of two coaches passing each other, with an embankment on the side, to highlight a “glaring lack of space”.

Passing buses used to highlight ‘glaring lack of space’ on Levenwick road

The section is one of the narrowest sections of a two-lane road in Shetland, with its width below current design standards of 6.8 metres.

Shetland South councillor Alex Armitage also told Wednesday’s meeting that he was taken out in a lorry recently on the stretch of road by a concerned constituent.

He said there was little room left on the road and admitted crossing his fingers when the 12 tonne truck he was in had to pass a bus.

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The Green councillor said widening the road would help larger vehicles, but barriers plus a speed limit could increase safety for smaller ones.

“If we have opportunities to have mitigating works at the places in the road where there’s the most potential to reduce road danger, then we should take up those opportunities,” Armitage said.

Meanwhile at Wednesday’s meeting fellow ward councillor Allison Duncan reiterated his long-held view that widening needs to take place as soon as possible.

He added that the only way of making the road safe for wider vehicles is increasing the size of the carriageway, adding that they tend to drive below 50mph there anyway.

Meanwhile Shetland South councillor Bryan Peterson also questioned the “limited use” of introducing a 50mph limit given the speed larger vehicles drive at already.

Members were told that an update on the SIC’s asset investment is due in the new year, when the matter is set to be discussed further.

No final decisions have been made on improving the road, but a couple of years ago the preferred option was to widen the road at a cost of nearly £5 million.

Since then, changes in design mean that a previously discounted option of installing road barriers on the side of the road without the need to widen has re-emerged.

Councillors have been told that this could potentially be an option in the short-term ahead of a future widening of the road.

SIC convener Andrea Manson said: “I don’t think anybody is suggesting that we don’t do improvements in the long run.

“What was suggested […] was that if it’s going to take a few years, these safety barriers would help the safety aspect of it as a stopgap until we actually do get the road widened.”

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson also said the Haggersta-Cova bend in the Whiteness and Weisdale area is also not wide enough.

She said there was an incident where the mirror of a school bus touched a lorry passing in the opposite direction.

Shetland West’s Liz Peterson also noted how the road into Walls is single track, where large vehicles such as salmon trucks and other large vehicles struggle to fit into passing places.

Meanwhile councillors also expressed their disappointment that the timetable for the project to upgrade the road into Cullivoe, now estimated to cost £9.9 million, has slipped.

A final business case for the development is only expected to come before councillors in September, despite previous hopes that work could get underway on site in the spring next year.

This is to allow an environmental impact assessment to be prepared for a planning application.

North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said it was “beyond disappointing” that the timing has slipped.

His concern was echoed by fellow ward member Robert Thomson as well as Shetland Central councillor Davie Sandison.

A video of the discussion on the Levenwick road can be found below, or using this link.

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