PLANS for a multi-million pound bridge between two remote Orkney islands could end the shortest schedule flight in the world.
The air link between Westray and Pappa Westray could be grounded by a scheme to build tunnels, bridges and causeways between a number of Orkney’s islands.
Councillors have decided to consult with the public over various proposals.
The 1.7-mile journey from Westray to Papa Westray attracts flight fans from all over the world. The record flight time, from the wheels coming up to touching down again, is 52 seconds.
But Orkney Islands Council is now looking at a series of fixed links involving seven islands.
Airfields on Westray and Pappa Westray may have to close as a result.
Plans for a 2.6 mile fixed link from neighbouring Eday are under consideration, along with a number of other ambitious projects.
The council’s development and infrastructure committee also looked at refreshing previous work on a tunnel to Shapinsay, a study into the provision of a fixed link between Rousay and Egilsay and a study into a fixed link between Rousay and Wyre.
Some of the schemes could also included renewable energy generation such as tidal power.
A report to councillors said the link between Eday and Pappa Westray would see the closure of “two, possibly three airfields”.
It added: “It is important to clarify at this stage that whilst work is now underway to formally investigate fixed links solutions for Orkney, this is very much a medium to long term timeframe exercise. Even in the best case scenario it would take several years from this point to design, consent and implement fixed links,” said the report compiled by various leading officers.
“The Council Plan 2013-2018 identifies ferry replacement as a priority and establishes action points for progression during the lifetime of this council. It is considered essential that this ferry replacement work should continue alongside any work on longer term fixed links.
“A key consideration in this regard is the fact that the age of the current ferry fleet dictates that a decision on replacement cannot wait until a decision on long term fixed links options are fully investigated and/or finalised.
“This said, it is realistic to assume that there could be some overlap between the operational lifespan of a replacement ferry fleet and implementation of fixed links.
“A significant element of the study period would be assigned to developing a cost benefit analysis of the proposals. It is assessed that this should be done over a 60 year period as this is consistent with what should be the time span between major infrastructure replacement/refurbishment programmes.
“The engineering data currently available is, with the exception of the tunnel to Shapinsay, superficial.
“A more detailed analysis of the options is required, taking account of geography, tides and weather, shipping movement requirements, and access to the roads network is therefore required. “
A detailed feasibility study will cost around £245,000 and take 18 months to complete.
Members agreed an amendment to the report’s recommendations, put forward by Councillor Stephan Hagan, that the council progress with community consultation on the links.