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Shetland considers tunnel links between islands

A PLAN TO connect three of the Shetland Islands with tunnels is being examined by Shetland Islands Council.

Norwegian consultant OT Blindheim said the cost of tunnels to connect Yell and Unst and Shetland's Mainland to Yell could be as little as £37M.

The rock engineering and tunnelling consultant was engaged to carry out a feasibility study. This followed previous work by consultant Halcrow which suggested tunnels as an option for fixed links between the North Sea islands.

At the moment the 1,800 residents of Yell, Unst and Fetlar rely on a ferry service to Mainland. Severe storms mean sailings are often cancelled.

OT Blindheim envisages drilling and blasting two bores in rock, generally without structural lining. Construction costs for the 4. 5km long Mainland-Yell tunnel are estimated at between £23M and £25M while the 2. 9km YellUnst tunnel would cost between £14M and £15M.

'We were surprised how low they were.

We are not sceptical but are cautious that these estimates are realistic, ' said the council's project co-ordinator Michael Craigie.

'The technique has been used in Scandinavia and it would seem that the order of costs being achieved there are similar to these estimates, ' he added.

Craigie said further geotechnical studies would cost £1. 1M. Councillors were soon to decide whether to fund this.

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