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Letters / Inter-island ferries reminder for candidates

During this period of political electioneering, all of our prospective electoral candidates should be reminded of issues regarding our island’ transport links.

At the turn of this century our SIC councillors were persuaded to approve the construction of new ferries and terminals in Yell Sound; for the SIC officials estimated cost of around £19.4 million, as an alternative to spending £26.9 to a worst case cost of £32.5 million for a tunnel.

The folly of following those SIC officials’ advice soon became obvious, when by 2006 the cost for the replaced Yell Sound ferry service had reached £37.1 million.

The increased annual running cost for those Yell ferries, sourced from the 2016 SIITS report; was between 500% to 600% more expensive than the annual cost sourced from the same report for running a Yell sound tunnel.

During 2010 the SIC councillors decided to refuse the advice from their transport officials to build a new ferry, a complete new harbour and three new ferry terminals; for around £26 million for the Whalsay service and alternatively directed them to search for funding for the construction of fixed links.

To date we are not aware that those SIC officials, have sourced any funding for fixed links.

However, from 2010 members of the Whalsay community have sourced three separate offers for the  construction of a fixed link between Whalsay and the Shetland mainland; including offers of funding.

All of those offers have been refused by the SIC and Scottish Government, using some strange reasons for the refusals; the latest one included the following statement, into which I have added costs sourced from the 2016 Shetland Inter Island Transport Study (SIITS) report in bold and in brackets; as follows,

The cost of a fixed link ( for Whalsay £1.1 million per annum for 60 years =£66 million) would significantly exceed the costs associated with the ongoing ferry services, (for Whalsay in 2015/16 = £3.4 million) even when considered over two ferry replacement cycles (= 60 years X £3.4 million = £204 million for the ferry service) (outwith the (2016/17) £76 million Geoconsult preliminary offer, which is significantly out-of-step with the ballpark prices provided by other contractors with a proven track record in tunnelling.)

The immediate replacement of the ferry Hendra, now over 42 years old was included in the Whalsay ferry service replacement figure of £60,821,128 shown in a 2008 transport link report.

The other Whalsay ferry Linga, built in 2002 will make her due for replacement in 2032.

Both ferries will be due to be replaced again 30 years after their first replacements and possibly one again at year 60.

The three ferry terminals built in the 1970s, required for the Whalsay open seas routes; are also beyond their replacement age of 40 years and all three would be required to be replaced now and again within sixty years.

The costs for those additional new ferries and renewed ferry terminals, are not mentioned in the SIITS report nor known; but those additional costs will be substantial.

William Polson


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