HARBOUR AND council officials in the Shetland Islands this week clashed over whether a bridge or tunnel should link rwick with the island of Bressay.
Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) accused Shetland Islands Council of rejecting a tunnel because it wanted an iconic bridge.
Shetland countered by saying that the LPA's favoured tunnel option was too expensive.
The spat broke out after the LPA produced a report by consultant Donaldson Associates in December.
LPA opposes plans for a bridge and wants a tunnel built instead. It has mounted a legal challenge to prevent Shetland Islands Council from building the bridge.
The LPA says piers and the deck height mean a bridge would be a shipping hazard at the busy commercial port.
It claims that a drill and blast tunnel would cost £16M less than a bridge, estimated at over £20M.
LPA's claims are backed by the Donaldson Associates report, which includes prices from Morgan Est, Edmund Nuttall and German contractor Strabag.
LPA said it was likely that either option would need an extra £5.9M for planning consents, surveys, seabed investigations, environmental assessment, supervision, professional fees and approach roads at both ends of the crossing. The budget for the link has been capped at £19M.
But the Donaldson Associates report also states that a £6M contingency fund should be allowed for a tunnel. This would cover unforeseen ground conditions.
'There are two obvious benefi s in having a tunnel - no objections from a marine navigation point of view and no closures for high winds, ' said LPA chief executive Allan Wishart.
'It seems clear that a tunnel can be built across the harbour for costs in the same range or less than a bridge, ' he said.
LPA deputy chief executive Sandra Laurenson added: 'It appears the leader of the council wants an icon - [the council] refers to it as the iconic Lerwick bridge.' Shetland Islands infrastructure services director Graham Spall said: 'We looked at tunnel options and discarded them early on because they were more expensive than the bridge which wins by some way in terms of cost.' Spall also dismissed LPA's claim that the council was set on building an iconic bridge.
'We are not building a bridge just so it can appear on picture postcard, we're building it because it's the most viable option.'