Transport / Spaceport and North Yell Development Council pledge £50k each to tunnel project

Alec Priest (UTAG), Susan Williamson, Mark Macbeath and Steven Henderson (YTAG), Elizabeth Johnson and Frank Strang (Shetland Space Centre). Photo: Shetland Tunnels

A FUNRAISING campaign has now begun for initial investigations into tunnels to Yell and Unst.

The Yell and Unst Tunnel Action Groups have launched their joint campaign to raise funds for investigations into sub-sea tunnels for the North Isles, as ferry services become “increasingly unsustainable”.

A total of £100,000 has already been pledged for the project, with half of the money coming from the SaxaVord Spaceport in Unst whilst the other £50,000 has been pledged by North Yell Development Council (NYDC).

North Isles action groups set to fundraise themselves for tunnel surveys

Now the action groups have also launched a crowdfunding page to commission “geo-technical investigations” as they look to secure the required resources to evaluate the socio-economic and environmental impact of tunnels between the mainland and Yell, and Yell and Unst.

An initial fundraising target of £250,000 would cover geo-technical investigations, as well as the socio-economic and environmental impact work.


When the first target is reached, the groups we will move to a second phase. This would require a further £250,000 to proceed with bore holes to sample the soil and rock into which the tunnel will be bored.

Yell Tunnel Action Group (YTAG) chairman Graham Hughson said: “This project seeks to lay the foundations for the tunnel infrastructure which, if successful, will breathe new life into the island communities, support economic and social development, and deliver a reliable, sustainable transport system for residents, businesses, and visitors.

“Our first challenge is to demonstrate if this scheme is technically and economically achievable, and we are very grateful to Unst Spaceport and North Yell Development Council, each of whom have committed £50,000 to the project.

“This financial support is a truly positive demonstration of how the islands’ business community view the potential connection of Unst and Yell to the Shetland mainland by subsea tunnels.”

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Alec Priest, chairman of the Unst Tunnel Action Group (UTAG), says the tunnels would be much more reliable than the current ferry services and would greatly benefit business operating in the isles.

“Donations, no matter the size, will play a vital role in advancing this groundbreaking project and will directly contribute to the essential investigations required to move forward with the development,” Priest said.

“Such support will not only help us to gather crucial information but will also demonstrate the widespread commitment to the prosperity, resilience, and environmental stewardship of our islands.”

It is estimated that it would take between 12 to 18 months to complete the initial investigations.

Work involved in this would include the creation of topographic maps and aerial photographs, determining the soil depth and quality of rock. This will “clearly identify” the optimal route for tunnels.


The results would support work already being undertaken on Shetland Islands Council on transport connectivity.

The two groups also pointed to how Burra, Trondra and Muckle Roe have “all retained their own distinct identities and, at the same time, prospered and grown” since getting bridges.

Regarding the displacement of local ferry crews in the event of tunnels, the groups said: “It has become increasingly difficult to fill vacant positions on Shetland’s inter-island ferries, with many recent posts filled with agency workers.

“Our vision is that the tunnels will, in the long term, open up new opportunities for skilled crew as they enjoy unrestricted travel across Shetland, and new job opportunities are created with a growing economy in Yell and Unst.”

More information can be found on their website.

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