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"ZetTrans - Shetland's Transport Partnership" by Ken Duerden, Transport Development Manager - Glasgow meeting of 26 February 2008

Ken Duerden, the Transport Development Manager addressed the Scottish Region's Glasgow meeting on 26 February on "ZetTrans - Shetland's Transport Partnership". He began by outlining the background to the establishment of the Regional Transport Partnerships (RTP), statutory bodies under the Transport (Scotland) Act, 2005. Originally, it was envisaged that there would be only five RTP's covering Scotland, but the Shetland Islands Council made a successful bid for a single authority RTP due to the remote nature of the Islands. ZetTrans has been designated as a "Model 3" Regional Transport Partnership and has responsibility for the actual delivery of transport services as well as the strategic commitments.

The Shetland Islands are at 60 degrees North.d

The Shetland Islands are at 60 degrees North.

© ZetTrans 2008

Membership of the RTP consists of four nominated members of Shetland Islands Council alone with a representative from both NHS Shetland and Shetland Enterprise. Additionally, there are four observers or advisers from other Shetland bodies that have a direct interest in the transport services of the Islands, and together these members make up the Board. Originally, the Partnership was to be called the Shetland Transport Partnership, but another RTP was already using the letters STP, so the decision was taken to adopt the old name for the Islands, Zetland, hence the name ZetTrans.

The Partnership is a virtual organization as it employs no staff directly. The lead officer is the head of transport for Shetland Islands Council and other staff are seconded as required. The organization had a budget of over £750,000 in 2006 - 7 but for the 2007 - 8 financial year, the budget has been reduced to around £155,000 following a change in the funding rules and the organisation now has to submit bids to the Scottish Government for funding for projects. In November 2006, functional responsibility for the Island's bus services was transferred to ZetTrans but ferry services within the Islands are still wholly owned and operated by the Council.

The Shetland Islands are situated in the North Sea, approximately 180 miles north of mainland Scotland and around 70 miles north of the Orkney Islands. There are over 100 different islands, of which only 15 are inhabited. One interesting fact that Ken Duerden pointed out was that the nearest railway station is in Bergen, Norway. This gives some idea of the distances involved to get to and from the islands. Shetland is at 60 degrees north and this puts the Islands on the same latitude as Bergen in Norway, Leningrad in Russia, the Hudson Bay in Canada and southern Alaska.

The islands are linked by a daily ferry service operated by NorthLink between Lerwick and Aberdeen, calling at Kirkwall in Orkney, using two ferries. This service carries around 100,000 passengers annually, along with around 17,000 cars. NorthLink also operates two freight only ferries that carry around 17,000 HGV's to and from the islands.

One of the aircraft that operates to and from Sumburgh.d

One of the aircraft that operates to and from Sumburgh.

© ZetTrans 2008

External air services provide links to a number of destinations. Loganair operates Saab 340 aircraft on services from Sumburgh to Orkney, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness and around 125,000 passengers are carried each year.. There are connecting flights available for London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester. Later this year, Loganair will offer a seasonal service to Bergen and in September 2008. Flybe will commence operating on a new franchise.

Within the Islands, Shetland Islands Council operates 12 ferries serving 14 terminals and 9 islands. Each year the ferries make around 70,000 crossings and carry over 750,000 passengers and more than 350,000 cars. Roll on - roll off ferries operate daily to the islands of Yell, Unst, Fetlar, Whalsay, and Bressay. More limited services are operated to Skerries, Fair Isle, and Papa Stour. Atlantic Ferries also operate to Foula under contract to the Council.

There is also an inter-island air service operated by Directflight under contract to the Council and this serves the islands of Fair Isle, Foula, Outer Skerries and Papa Stour. The service uses two Britten Norman Islander aircraft that are ideally suited to the conditions and some 4,500 passengers a year are carried. Public transport is also provided and ZetTrans is responsible for the bus services. These are operated by a number of different operators under contract and are an essential lifeline for many of the rural communities on the islands and provide access to work, leisure activities and educational facilities and healthcare.

One of the first tasks the new RTP had to undertake was to prepare its transport strategy and this was submitted for approval to Scottish Ministers on 30th March 2007, after two years work. ZetTrans faces a number of challenges , for example, the Shetland Islands are experiencing a changing economic situation as oil revenues are decreasing. This has led to some diversification, for example, into oil rig decommissioning. Tourism is now more important and renewable energy schemes are being developed. The islands also face a declining population and this has implications for the future. Rising fuel prices are also a key factor and changing patterns of mobility have to be taken into account.

These aspects had to be addressed in the strategy and one of the key elements of the strategy is sustainability, in that anything that is done now should not leave an adverse legacy for the future. Other key elements of the strategy are accessibility and inclusion, accountability and partnership. The strategy requires that actions taken are evidence based and that they are as efficient as possible. All actions are required to comply with the relevant regulations and legislation. However, there are a number of constraints that affect the strategy, including the physical environment, high costs, the limited size of the Shetland Islands market, an ageing and declining population and high seasonal demand.

The strategy also has to link into the National Transport strategy and as a result requires that journey times and connections are improved, emissions are reduced and quality, accessibility and affordability are all improved. The strategy also has to meet the Scottish Government's aspirations. Given all of these factors, the strategy proposes that solutions be essential rather than desirable and fit for purpose. When deciding on what to implement, consideration will be on the basis of need, benefit and effectiveness.

To this end there are a number of key projects currently at the consultation or planning stage. These include, for example, a study on the long-term transport link between Bressay and Mainland Shetland and a study examining options for transport links across Bluemull Sound, connecting the island communities of Unst, Fetlar and Yell. Also under consideration is the replacement of the outer isles ferries and continuing support for the inter island air services.

Other key projects underway are an audit of walking opportunities with plans to improve walkway links. Similarly, an audit is being carried out into cycling opportunities and improving cycling links. A motorcycle guide has also been published. Road schemes are prioritised by strategic priority and aim to achieve a reduction in the maintenance burden. The strategy also aims to reduce harmful emissions. On the public transport front, ZetTrans plans to support the continuation of the core services on the Islands and is undertaking a stock take of the community Transport and Demand Responsive Transport vehicles to find out exactly what is available. This will enable better use to be made of the assets. Area Transport Forums have also been set up, initially as bus forums, but these now look at all aspects of transport. There are eight area transport forums covering the Islands.

Shetland faces a number of challenges in maintaining and improving its transport services and links and currently benefits from high quality services. The creation of ZetTrans has provided the mechanism for meeting those challenges and further information on ZetTrans can be found on it's website at /www.zettrans.org.uk/

The Scottish Region would like to thank Ken Duerden, Transport Development Manager for addressing the Scottish Region and for assisting with this report. Thanks also go to ScotRail for hosting the meeting in the ScotRail Training Academy.

Report by John Fender.

 

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