Truth about tunnels (Alec Priest)
I was blyde to see John Tulloch’s letter in last week’s Readers’ Views. I thought I would add to his letter by addressing the desperate need to replace the obsolete Whalsay ferry service, with an up-to-date, sustainable, service.
The Shetland public need to be made aware of some information as to why there are so many people actively pushing for fixed links instead of unsustainable ferries.
In June 2010 the council were presented with flawed figures to vote on the future of the Whalsay service.
They were told the ferry option was £26 million and the tunnel was £83 million. The council still voted 11-10 in favour of pursuing tunnel options.
After looking in the SIC minutes, I found that the ferry cost was £60.8 million and the tunnel option was £57 million (both May 2010). The council official who presented the figures later apologised for presenting the wrong ferry figures.
The Scottish government have stated, if councils make requests for tunnels they will consider building them as our transport links, but to our dismay we find that a peedie number of council officials are still promoting building ferries and terminals in their proposed report to be sent to the Scottish government.
In 2010, the cost for replacing the Whalsay route with a new ferry service was £60.8 million. This would make the 2016 price, £71 million, the operating cost would be similar to the Yell sound service, at a gross cost of £5.8 million per annum (2015/16 costs).
Tunnel & Geoconsult, a leading Norwegian tunnelling company, gave a quote last week to build the 5.7km Whalsay tunnel and the 3.6km of roadworks required to connect the tunnel to the existing infrastructure, for £60 million, with an operating cost of £400,000 per annum (£70,000 per km).
In 2002, the proposed Yell Sound tunnel was quoted at £26.9-£32.5 million. Instead we went for the super-ferry option at a cost of £38,317,533 (Freedom of Information request from the finance department).
We have been faced with service cuts due to the cost of this service.
Over the past years we have been told over and over again that “we cannot afford to build a tunnel”, the thing is, how can we afford to pay for replacing the ferries which will cost £11 million more than the tunnel?
Interestingly, you only pay for the tunnel once it is complete, at the same time as the ferry service would stop. The repayment of the tunnel would begin, at the same rate as the operating cost of the ferry and would be paid off in just over 14 years (based on a loan interest rate of 3.5 per cent).
Considering the lifespan of a ferry service is 30 years and the minimum lifespan of a tunnel is 120 years, this will give Shetland an unrestrictive, cost effective inter-island transport system that can only have positive effects on the greater Shetland economy.