Island tunnel backers have said the plan to dig undersea links is more economically viable than the current ferry service.

A report of Unst and Yell Tunnel Action Groups’ visit to the Faroe Islands highlights a series of potential social and economic benefits should the Shetland projects go ahead.

It includes the growth of local communities, increased employment and leisure opportunities, retention of the population, housing development, improved capacity for the movement of perishable foodstuffs, and a positive impact on the move to carbon neutrality.  

The report called Subsea Tunnels: Are We Crazy? explores how tunnels have impacted on the Faroe Islands and provides comparisons between the two island groups in terms of geology, socio-economic and environmental factors, and issues relating to funding.  

READ MORE: Islanders launch tunnel crowdfunder in bid to replace ferries

Alice Mathewson, joint chair of Unst Tunnel Action Group, said: "The four-day fact-finding visit revealed that 11% of the entire Faroese road network is underground, and from December this year, the Faroes will have 22 tunnels, four of which are subsea.

The Herald: Some 11% of the Faroese road network is undergroundSome 11% of the Faroese road network is underground (Image: Unst and Yell Tunnels Groups)

"We now intend to seek data that already exists: that commissioned by Shetland Islands Council, as well as the oil, renewables, and fisheries industries and service providers, including those laying subsea cables. This will help to inform our geological investigations."

READ MORE: Shetland tunnels plan now at 'advanced' stage says islands' council

Steven Henderson, joint chair of Yell Tunnel Action Group, said: "It is evident from the Faroese experience that the introduction of tunnels would provide opportunities for growth and development for our communities and the wider economy, as well as assist in our journey towards carbon neutrality."

Duncan Gray, joint chair of Unst Tunnel Action Group, said: "There is also no guarantee that the Scottish Government will continue to fund the deficit which they currently commit to our ferry service, nor is there any plan, realistic costing, or budget in place for ferry replacement."

READ MORE: Shetland proposes inter-island tunnels and new funding as answer to aging ferry fleet

Mr Gray also said: "Even if these were to appear, our communities will face the same ongoing situation every 20 to 30 years. Therefore, on that basis alone, we believe that the option of constructing tunnels is forward thinking and economically sound.”

Ms Mathewson added: "The ‘are we crazy?’ was inspired by a geologist we met in Faroe who said ‘back in the 1980s when we first started to speak about subsea tunnels, I thought we were crazy, but look what we’ve achieved’.

"We very much hope that we will soon be able to reflect back in a similar vein."