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Fact finding visit to Faroe Islands

Yell and Unst Tunnel Action Groups have just returned from a four-day fact finding visit to the Faroe Islands, a visit which revealed many significant parallels with Shetland and which gave the Groups extensive information and inspiration on all aspects of the islands’ tunnelling experience.

The delegation had presentations and discussions on the investigations required, construction, funding, and evaluation of the islands’ tunnel projects.

Joint chair of Unst Tunnel Action Group, Alice Mathewson, said: “The key to any tunnelling project is mapping out the geology. This is something which came through very strongly from our discussions in Faroe. Geotechnical investigations form a major part of the initial investigations we are currently seeking to fund. This has not been part of any previous or current initiatives, but is essential to both reduce risk and provide realistic costings for a tunneling project.

“The ability to access the learnings, skills, and expertise that Faroe has built up over the last 60 years is invaluable and demonstrates exactly what can be achieved in Shetland.

“With the Sandoy tunnel due to open in December 2023, the community’s experience was of particular interest to us. We met with the Mayor and Sands community and had an open discussion about the benefits and reservations that came with the tunnel project. It was reassuring to hear that the positives greatly outweighed any potential drawbacks. The same being true across all the islands in Faroe served by tunnels.

“We were delighted to hear that the community in Sandoy are already starting work on 44 houses which will be made available for new residents, as well as a new kindergarten.

“It was a privilege to be granted permission to travel through the Sandoy tunnel, ahead of its opening later this year. The difference it will make to the island is incredible, and whilst we are delighted for the island of Sandoy, we are also slightly jealous!”

Joint chair of Unst Tunnel Action Group, Duncan Gray, said: “During our time in Faroe we travelled through all but one tunnel, including all four sub-sea tunnels. It was so interesting and informative to speak to island residents about the impact tunnels have had on their communities, stemming depopulation, strengthening rural businesses including shops, and providing unrestricted travel across communities for both work and social activity.

“We would encourage anyone with an interest in sub-sea tunnelling either locally or nationally to follow in our footsteps and visit Faroe to see what can and has been achieved through permanently linking islands with tunnel infrastructure. We will certainly be maintaining contact with all those we met, and hope to make more trips to the islands in the future”

Based on their experience in Faroe and the knowledge they gained there, the Groups will now formulate a report on their findings. This will focus on a range of issues, including geology, finance, and construction as well as the impacts and outcomes experienced by communities and islands in Faroe. It is expected that the report will be completed in the next few weeks and will be made available to all interested and relevant parties.

The Groups are very grateful to all those they met for the superb hospitality and providing such comprehensive information. Particular thanks to Articon for hosting the visit, and LBF Engineering, Faroese Geological Survey, Faroese Subsea Tunnel Company, and Faroese Agency for Public Works for their enlightening presentations and discussion in relation to the investigations required, construction, funding and evaluation of tunnel projects. Thanks also to the Mayor and members of the Sands Community in Sandoy for their generous hospitality and open discussion.