IT is one of Britain's most remote inhabited islands, home to colonies of sea birds and the location for the 1937 film The Edge of the World.

Now Foula with a population of 38 mostly crofters who make their living from farming sheep or breeding Shetland ponies, is subject to a transport rethink as concerns are raised that it may be just too cut off.

A new study says that while the chartered air service operates up to four times a week in summer and winter which gets residents to Tingwall on Shetland in 15 to 20 minutes - there are questions over its long-term sustainability because of "an ongoing challenge of providing fire cover at the airfield".


The service is also limited to operating during daylight hours while the airfield is susceptible to fog.

A council-run ferry makes the two hour crossing to the main Shetland island from Foula three times a week – weather permitting – in the peak summer period but it drops to two days in the winter.

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The study by consultants Peter Brett Associates LLP, joint-funded by Shetland Islands Council, Transport Scotland, and Highlands & Islands Enterprise suggests replacing the ferry and increasing the frequency of the air and sea crossings as options for change.

It revealed a "significant weekend connectivity gap", pointing out that other than a summer Saturday ferry return, there are no services at all, "which effectively cuts the island off".


The existing 20-year-old ferry MV New Advance can only take one small car and 12 passengers, cannot accommodate heavy freight or plant and has limited access for the disabled, while the air service is limited to eight or nine passengers.

The capacity issue impacts negatively both on access to the mainland for island residents and on visitors to the island," the report says.

The ferry crossing is "long and exposed" and presented reliability challenges particularly during the winter.

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The study also highlights that it is not possible to make a meaningful day return either to or from Foula by ferry.

"Reliability issues can lead to both islanders and visitors incurring costly overnight stays, whilst a sustained period of cancellations can have significant impacts on the inbound and outbound supply chain."


A final report over potential changes is expected later this month while the study was to provide Shetland Council and ZetTrans with evidence to inform discussions with Scottish Government.

But if any changes mirror the evolution in the organisation date designations, it may never come.

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While the rest of Britain started using the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Foula still uses the Julian calendar, which means Christmas is celebrated on January 6 and New Year's Day is on the 13th.