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Letters / Tunnel could be built in four years

Whalsay tunnel proposal. Image: Tomas Oehrling

A few weeks ago there was an article in the Shetland Times showing a tunnel alignment from Whalsay to Vidlin.

That route has never been mentioned as a tunnel proposal before so it is not known where it came from.

The tunnel alignment shown below was offered to the SIC in 2010 for a price of £10,000 to £11,500 a metre for the tunnel’s construction.

The offer including a low interest loan, was turned down by SIC officials in 2012 when there were no councillors in office due to the council elections.

The latest offer to build a tunnel to Whalsay was for a figure of £76 million, this including an estimated £10 million for design and access roads.

The tunnelling company also proposed using a number of Shetland companies and workforce for the tunnels construction. The offer including finance was again recently refused.

A transport report commissioned by the SIC published in 2016 showed that the cost of running the Whalsay ferry service in 2015/16 was £3.4 million.

If we take that as an annual figure £27.2 million will have been spent on running the Whalsay transport link in the 8 years since the tunnel offer was made.

In comparison a tunnel annual running cost was projected to be around £400,000 making a total for eight years of £3.2 million, thus showing £24 million more was spent by running the ferry service.

This total figure will annually increase by £3 million as long as the ferry costs stay the same.

SIC figures show that it cost more to build and run the ferry service in Yell sound from 2002 to 2006 than it would have cost to build the proposed Yell Sound tunnel.

The Yell transport link will now have cost well over £100 million to build and run from 2002 and is also continually rising.

The 2015/16 running cost for Yell Sound shown in the SIC transport report was £5.8 million whereas a tunnel at £400,000 per annum of running cost from 2006 to 2018 would have been a total of £4.8 million.

Tunnelling consultants have said that once approval is received, the tunnel could be built within four years; they would require a year for site/ground investigations, planning and legal requirements and three years for the tunnel’s completion to be open for traffic.

David Hughson
Whalsay Community Council