Transport Futures: Stornoway, Gateway to the North (and the Universe!)

Traditional Hebridean Air Transport - on the beach on Barra
I'm always intrigued at suggestions about how transport might evolve – particularly when it involves either the Western Isles or Shetland.

Scottish islands, at the moment, have pretty limited transport links. There are ferries bck to Scottish mainland and flights to one or two other destinations in addition to the mainland.  In Shetland’s case the ferries did offer more options until recently but there doesn't seem to be any changes on the cards at the moment, I've talked about this before on this blog,

This time I'm going to talk about how things might be in the future – particularly for Stornoway.

The climate changes in the Arctic are starting to make commercial shipping possible through the Northwest Passage (across Arctic Canada) and, particularly, the Northeast Passage (across Arctic Russia).  If shipping to and from the Far East is going to start making fuller use of the Arctic routes there will, it has been argued, be a need for a shipping gateway providing refuelling and maintenance services close to the route and also port facilities for consolidating and distributing cargo loads.  If there is a need for a gateway port in the North Atlantic, Stornoway might be very well placed to step into the role.

Stornoway Harbour - might be getting busier
I'm not yet convinced that mass shipping via the Arctic is going to happen in the near future. Even with the ice gone, the Arctic is still going to be challenging environment for regular shipping particularly for the bulk shipping companies where reliable delivery times are more important than the time that the shipping takes.

However, the other opportunity that might be around could see Stornoway become the gateway to an even more ambitious destination.

Stornoway is, apparently, on the short-list to be Britain’s first commercial spaceport.  The idea that Britain would have a spaceport would have been pretty fanciful a few years ago but if we are going to have one it might well make sense for this to be somewhere relatively remote from major population centres.

Sumburgh Airport, Shetland - when the runway was
extended it needed to cross the main road.
I'm not sure what criteria are going to be used to decide where the spaceport is going to be, but at least Stornoway does have a decent length runway to start with although they might need to adopt the Shetland model of putting in a runway-crossing if they want to make the runway much longer.

Shetland might be able to make claim to host a shipping gateway, but I'm pretty sure that the runways at Sumburgh would be a challenge for incoming space shuttles.

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