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.

Alec Priest


Add Your Comment
  • Davy Simmons

    • September 20th, 2016 20:09

    Having been 34 times to Faroe in the last 40 years & experienced the benefit of their many tunnels ,the latest one being approx 10 miles with a round about in the middle with a branch going to one of the smaller villages ,The main tunnel runs from Sund to Runavick One just is amazed that we cannot even get a tunnel to Bresser ( the north mooth crossing what half a mile ?) Come on we would need to think about the future,

    • Steven Jarmson

      • October 2nd, 2016 11:56

      Don’t mention round-a-bouts in any context to the Council!!!
      They’ll put on one per mile!!!

  • Aaron Smith

    • September 20th, 2016 20:11

    What are the names of the officials making such bogus statements. And why are they not facing some kind of disciplinary action?

  • Joseph Kay

    • September 20th, 2016 21:31

    The “truth” is buried under sand, sea and rock.

  • Alec Priest

    • September 21st, 2016 11:07

    Not just any rock, as stated in Tunnel & Geoconsults Geological survey done on 28-29 MAy 2010, the rock between whalsay and the mainland is granittic gneiss and Quartzittic gneiss, very favourable rock formations for a drill and blast tunnel.

  • Susan Williamson

    • September 21st, 2016 14:53

    You only have to look at the increase in the population of Burra and Trondra after the fixed links were built to see one of the many benefits fixed links provide. 565 to 850 and 17 to 135 respectively.

    Why are these officials, who continually present mis-information and/or make huge mistakes that cost the SIC dearly, not facing disciplinary action, or at the very least, being given jobs where they don’t make the decisions?
    There appears to be no culpability within the council. There also seems to be little common sense.

  • Wilbert Shearer

    • September 21st, 2016 23:11

    Boy boy the number a folk outside a whalsay it’s wantin wis ta get a tunnel i feel a conspiracy building,mabye alec is fairt de council is gan ta gee wis a ferry fee replacing a ferry is 11 million more than a tunnel dat il be 83 million we de 12 million a tax added he’s forgotten aboot.dats some ship, you could buy 3 75 metre state of the art pelagic boats for dat, wir lookin at a 45-48 metre most be right rivotin holidays at davy is haen spendin his time drivin trow tunnels a faroe, do most hae tunnel vision noo.i lik a hot country mesell.doos right aboot one thing der spent 50years trying ta get a tunnel ta bressay whaar is it.i hope common sense prevails at de meeting in the isle de morns night Whalsay is geen downhill lang enoff dis past 7yrs, i keen i can speak for a number a folk on dat statement. ps forgive me grammar.

  • Eric Burgess-Ray

    • September 22nd, 2016 15:08

    If Alec Priest’s figures are correct why is everyone dithering about inter-island tunnels? Who are the people holding back sensible progress? I know there are people on these islands that are determined nothing is to change, and some of them must be the decision makers at SIC. It must be really annoying to those people that we have a great road system with good surfacing, and not rumbling around with the horse and cart.

    Money has been spent on island infrastructure for the good of islanders and visitors and someone has put the brakes on – someone needs a boot up the backside to get these islands out of the nineteenth century.

  • Anne Gair

    • September 30th, 2016 21:02

    I too agree with Alec Priest and Eric Burgess-Ray’s comments. It seems stupid to keep on going with ferries when there is a better alternative to travelling to Whalsay. A tunnel can be used every day, whereas the ferries can only run when the weather permits.
    Tunnel and Geoconsult seem to have given a reasonable price to build a tunnel which would mean the people of Whalsay would be able to get to the mainland easier and not have to rely on boat timings, (when they can run). At christmas they would be able to visit family that don’t live on Whalsay and vice versa. Shopping in town would be easier too, as people wouldn’t have to rush back for the last ferry, a tunnel makes so much sense.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 1st, 2016 13:45

    One £ billion in tunnels or for an interconnector for Viking Energy. I know which would do Shetland the most good. Out of interest how much tunnel do you get for £ one billion?

    • John Tulloch

      • October 2nd, 2016 18:44

      Norway’s Laerdal Tunnel (2000) holds the main road from Oslo to Bergen (bigger than Aberdeen). It is just over 15 miles long and cost £105 million. Add 52% for inflation, giving current cost of £160 million and you should get going on for 100 miles for your £1billion – and it’s a big tunnel:

      Recent figures from Faroe suggest a similar distance (c.100 miles) for your £1 billion – smaller road/tunnel, obviously, but more remote location so likely more expensive to do the work than in Norway itself.

  • Steven Jarmson

    • October 2nd, 2016 12:34

    It’s high time the Council came out and told the truth.
    Bridges/tunnels will increase the viability of the islands. Not only that, the financial benfits accross Shetland will be felt by The many, not the few.
    The council fear that it will distract from centralising everything in Lerwick. They fear that benefits for the many will jeopardise their vision of a few, well connected, people controlling everything from Lerwick, for Lerwick.
    It’s not just those presenting the figures who should go, it’s the councillors too.
    Those who find it easier to take away from rural areas rather than see the benefits to everyone of a strong, viable rural Shetland, this includes strong, viable and financially strong islands contributing to our life instead of feeling like everything the Council does for them is a favour.
    Even a blind man can see the numbers and lifestyle benefits stack up in favour of fixed links.
    Shetlands dieing communities are a direct result of council policy.
    Maybe it’s about time more visionary people ran our islands instead of the self-serving, allbeit, very well connected people.

  • John Irvine

    • October 2nd, 2016 13:46

    Good point Ian, which pretty much sums the whole VE fiasco up.

    There are a lot of young people who would like to stay but are leaving the isles because of the ferry service. I don`t think there is much doubt about it that in the long run if the isles are to continue to thrive than fixed links are imperative.

    I appreciate that ferry`s will no longer be needed so there will be no more jobs there but fixed links are surely a better option than the slow and sad decline of the islands we all love.

  • Haydn Gear

    • October 2nd, 2016 23:58

    As a matter of comparative interest Ian, the channel tunnel from England to France cost £4.6 billion between 1988 and 1994 (23.5 miles ) which in today’s terms would be £12 billion and very likely a good deal upwards. In the present and looming climate of financial uncertainty, it’s probably time to consult with China. !!!!

    • ian tinkler

      • October 3rd, 2016 13:35

      Chunnel, three separate tunnels I believe, built with European Cooperation. That has to be a recipe for financial disaster. Need a fourth tunnel to hold all the red tape!! I would go for Norway’s Laerdal Tunnel type . It is just over 15 miles long and cost £105 million and not an Entente Cordial in sight. Have to watch out for Vikings though, spiky helmets could puncture the roof!!!

  • Will John Anderson

    • September 21st, 2017 17:04

    Whatever the arguments for tunnel’s/fixed links; one thing is for sure – The Gutcher, Belmont and perhaps to a slightly lesser degree the Vidlin; Laxo; and Symbister terminals, are in a very poor state of repair! These would need a complete rebuild and at quite a substancial price. Surely the time is fast approaching that these terminals will not be fit for purpose and common sense must be applied! Conclusion tunnels. I have just finished working on a Bridge, the Queensferry Crossing but the cost is enormous £1.3 billion!

  • Kevin T Robertson

    • October 21st, 2017 7:09

    Do the Maths if at his tunnel cost £100 million ???????

    No roads, no lighting, no escape routes, no raids leading to it and no linkspan up grades for emergency cover if tunnel is out of action.

    Scottish Water is building a 3.1 mile-long waste water tunnel in the south of Glasgow as part of the biggest upgrade of the city’s waste water network in more than a century.

    The £100m tunnel is being constructed from Craigton Industrial Estate, and will run under Bellahouston Park, Pollok Park, along Titwood Road to Queen’s Park where it ties into the existing sewer network. The project will improve water quality in the River Clyde and its tributaries and reduce flooding issues at key locations.

    The tunnel is being constructed using a specially designed tunnel boring machine. The tunnel route was carefully selected to minimise disruption. It will be big enough to fit a double-decker bus inside and more than five times as long as the Clyde Tunnel.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 21st, 2017 22:31

    Just a bit of lateral thinking. How deep is this water. Can a partitions causeway (with roads) be built? Can the resulting tidal rips be used for sub-surface turbines and a predictable and reliable carbon-neutral power generation be realised? Just a matter of fact for the ignorant Green Lunatics to consider, most submerged man-made structures increase biodiversity. Wind farms kill all that fly near them, onshore and offshore.

  • David Spence

    • October 22nd, 2017 14:35

    Tunnels connecting the islands of Shetland, within reason and distance, probably would be far more beneficial than having to use the ferries, and may even work out cheaper in the long run.

    However, once you put in the greed and profit factors into the equation, such a great idea becomes none viable, commercially speaking.

    It may be a mute point, but if you look at the Dome in London, the Trams in Edinburgh and the cleaning of Westminster, estimated to cost over £1.3 billion, as a percentage, how much of the overall cost is shear greed and profit? I would suspect this takes up a large piece of the pie.

    If the Faroes can do it, surely Shetland could do it?????

    • Christopher Johnston

      • October 22nd, 2017 23:59

      How many SIC employees (including managers) would be sacked if the whort ferries were replaced by tunnels? That is part of the consideration. Government wants to emply more staff, not less.

      • Ali Inkster

        • October 23rd, 2017 13:52

        it is the councils responsibility to provide services not jobs

      • Brian Smith

        • October 23rd, 2017 17:24

        It’s Keynes I feel sorry for.

  • David Spence

    • October 23rd, 2017 11:13

    Well Chris, if Brex*hit and the Tories get their way, there will be thousands of jobs which will go within many LA Districts throughout the country.

    Putting this aside, I would anticipate the tunnels would employ teams of people to keep maintenance, cleaning and, if required, tolls for using the tunnels.

    I would also anticipate the tunnels would encourage people to stay on the islands, possibly increasing the population, increase businesses investment, thus employing more people. The tunnels could, potentially, increase the value of their property as well?

    I would say, overall, the pro’s outweigh the cons.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 23rd, 2017 11:54

    What a fatuous argument from Christopher. All those sacked employees, especially the managers, would become available for productive employment. After Brexit, we would probably have loads of new jobs in the fishing and could employ people in something more useful than endless back and forwards on a ferry.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • October 25th, 2017 2:10

      Ian, you may have been born under a neep leave but I was not.
      Politicians seeking to gain and hold public office need votes and money. Votes are most easily obtained from employees and bureaucrats who depend on the politician’s favour for their livelihood. Money is easily obtained from employee unions and special interests who want to curry the politician’s favour.
      Shetland’s government employment is high in relationship to total employment. Look at the SIC’s 2014 Shetland Employment Survey that states in 2014 Public Administration was 21.7% of total employment (1,910 FTEs – Full Time Equivalent jobs) while Health was 5.4% (477 FTEs). Add to this 27.1% all the other Trust, Scottish Government, UK Government, etc. employment and I suggest the total is close to 1/3. Now consider that the present SIC website states they do payroll for over 2,300 FTE Council employees. That is an increase of at least 20% in the last three years.

      • Michael Garriock

        • October 25th, 2017 14:20

        …..and your point is, Christopher Johnston?

        Regardless of the actual number of SIC jobs, the vast majority in desk bound positions, in time honoured socialist principle, are doing ‘non-jobs’. Whether it be through un-necessarily complicated admin or managerial procedures, stupidly complex and/or detailed ‘record keeping’, or just simply in positions that serve minimal if any useful and/or productive purpose. While everyone else has to pay through taxation for their salaries and for the support systems/office supplies/admin costs they create.

        Its long past time the SIC machine was entirely rebuilt and made in to a lean, efficient, value for money and fit for purpose organisation, and not the bloated, waddling, half-asleep, cack handed blob it has been for a very long time.

        Central to achieving that is the shedding of inefficiency, the inefficient procedures, practices, policies, and most definitely inefficient people and positions.

        The general public does not owe anyone a SIC job, in many cases paying more than that public themselves earn, unless they’re getting back a decent return on their investment.

      • Brian Smith

        • October 25th, 2017 18:31

        Mr Garriock knows nothing about it. He learned all that from the Mail.

      • Michael Garriock

        • October 26th, 2017 1:56

        Is that old rag still in print? Not seen a copy since the 70’s myself.

        I guess it must be, seeing as you claim to know whats in it these days, Brian.

  • Michael Garriock

    • October 23rd, 2017 17:16

    Several years ago the Foula boat was put out to private tender, IIRC across the two rounds of tendering which has been so far, a saving of circa 50% in cost has been achieved compared to when the SIC ran it themselves.

    No ‘front line’ jobs were lost, nor pay/conditions downgraded as far as I’m aware, nor was there any reduction on service provision, and, perhaps most tellingly of all, service users have not felt the need to complain publically, and in fact from time to time gone out of their way to praise – something unheard of back in the SIC days.

    One therefore can only assume that the savings made were realised from admin and staff reductions within the council machine itself, which, apparently were entirely superfluous and un-necessary anyway, seeing as the service runs considerably more cheaply and apparently more effectively without them.

    When what amounted to a ‘trial run’ with privatising the Foula boat, has been such an apparently runaway success on all fronts, why has it not been rolled out across other routes? Even if savings were only 10%, it would go some way towards paying for whatever replacements are eventually chosen.

    • ian tinkler

      • October 25th, 2017 22:04

      So Brian Smith is back whittering on about the mail. What a profound intellect this man has. How very socialist lol!

  • ian tinkler

    • October 25th, 2017 10:36

    Christopher, it is the public carry the vast majority of the votes. Most of the public is not stupid enough to be swayed one iota by SIC employment figures. They are more intelligent than that. Apparently, there are exceptions, like yourself and Trump, who would advocate unproductive employment, just to massage employment figures. The figures you quote are a pointless digression. They have nothing whatsoever to do with Tunnels or this discussion!!

    • Christopher Johnston

      • October 25th, 2017 20:24

      I do not advocate any public employment beyond the minimum necessary to provide defined government services. Have Council services increased in scope or has population increased in the last three years to necessitate a self-admitted 20+% increase in Council employment?

  • Haydn Gear

    • October 25th, 2017 12:44

    Oh dear, Christopher Johnston, what a bleak picture you paint if this is a summing up of what you see as democracy in action. Is there any significant difference between SIC and the powers that be in N Korea, China et al if the whole sad and dubious system depends on gaining power through under the table coercion and then retaining it through the use of “ you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” methods? The chickens really have come home to roost if this is the kind of thing you appear to condone.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • October 25th, 2017 20:19

      I do not condone the practice but recognize this is how the world works, Shetland included. Perhaps you should have your vision checked. Did the self-admitted increase of 400+ SIC employees in the last three years escape you?

    • Ali Inkster

      • October 25th, 2017 21:25

      Christopher may paint a bleak picture but nowhere do I see where he condones it. But It may well explain why councillors have failed to act when council officials are failing in their duties or even allegedly misleading the council as to the true cost of tunnels versus ferries.

      • Christopher Johnston

        • October 27th, 2017 4:10

        Ali, how would councilors appear to the voters if all the ferries department employees and bureaucrats were sacked because they were superseded by tunnels? To be sure, more roads maintenance employees would be needed but not enough to offset the loss of ferries jobs.

      • Ali Inkster

        • October 27th, 2017 18:21

        They would appear to be doing their jobs for a change instead of buying wir votes we wir ain money.

    • David Spence

      • October 26th, 2017 2:52

      ‘ gaining power through under the table coercion and then retaining it through the use of “ you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” ‘

      Isn’t this the perfect description of the US Political System, Haydn ? lol

      Mind you, it also describes the Tories…………..who we all know just love anything to do with the States….as long as greed, profits and selfishness are on the menu of Capitalism.

      • Christopher Johnston

        • October 27th, 2017 4:06

        David, perhaps you were born under a neep leaf. This is a common practice amongst all political parties in both the US and the UK. Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Greens, etc. – they all do this. The #1 priority for every politician is to gain office and stay in office until ready to leave; all other priorities are secondary.

      • David Spence

        • October 27th, 2017 12:23

        This maybe so, Chris. However, such practices within the political arena take a more sinister turn when you look closely at the Conservatives and their agenda of putting themselves first, second and third at the cost to the population of the country.

        The obsession of the Conservatives to privatise all government responsibilities and duties of care has reach new heights of putting their own interests ahead of the country, and where they, the Conservatives, will benefit financially at the cost to the population as a whole.

        It emphasises a system where greed, selfishness, profits and ‘ to hell with everybody else ‘ pervades society in a very negative way, and where competition and dominance rule the roost no matter what methods are used to achieve this.

        Military Power and Commercial Dominance come from the same mold, and it is this which also brings out the worse in human nature, as greed, commercialism, profits and power rule regardless to the negative impact this may have on people………..the Conservatives want to model the UK based on this. Not for the people but for themselves and nobody else.

        Why do you think we had a fixed and rigged EU Ref. ?

      • ian tinkler

        • October 27th, 2017 20:40

        Just think, Christopher, all those using the tunnels would love the Councillors who helped create them. All those isolated populations and island industries would be so enabled. It would take a neep brain not to see where the votes would go. A bit deep for yot Christopher?

  • Haydn Gear

    • October 27th, 2017 17:18

    David Spence presents a stance which is underpinned by a sense of morality that is totally lacking in the views expressed by Christopher Johnston. The latter said on October 27 th——-“ The priority for every politician is to gain office and stay in office until ready to leave; all other priorities are secondary”. ALL OTHER PRIORITIES ARE SECONDARY. !!!!!!! So, that’s what it’s all about. This must be a new self revealing low. Well done Mr J.

    • Christopher Johnston

      • October 28th, 2017 12:05

      Haydn, surely you jest. What is moral about turning a blind eye to human nature and pretending it doesn’t exist?

      • David Spence

        • October 28th, 2017 14:56

        Are you implying that Chris, commercial greed, selfishness and profits place a higher priority than the damage we are doing to the environment, natural habitat and the mass extinction of species? (according to scientific evidence, and the exception of the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, today’s (as a consequence of human activity) mass extinction is the fastest yet recorded)

        It is because of this mindset, overall, we, as humans (putting the human made concept of money ahead of any natural phenomena) are not only going to cause the loss of life in the millions, but affecting the eco-systems to which we are dependent on as part of life on this planet.

        Reminds me of the quote from the alien to the human in the film The day the Earth stood still

        ” I did not come here to save you from the planet, I came here to save the planet from you.

        If you live, the Earth dies, if you die, the Earth lives. ”

        Capitalism, by its very nature, is self destructive ideology, taking all in its path (life).

        Is this what we should teach future generations?????

  • Christopher Johnston

    • October 28th, 2017 12:21

    Ian Tinkler, you wrote, “It would take a neep brain not to see where the votes would go.”
    Perhaps so, but then perhaps not. The shortest tunnels would be to Bressay, Whalsay, Unst, and Yell; the total population of those islands is about 3,000. So double the number of citizens affected as you suppose and consider it 6,000. Those 6,000 would cast fewer votes than the 30+/-% of the electorate that are government employees.
    Perhaps so, but then perhaps not.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 28th, 2017 13:51

    Christopher do you really believe 30+/-% of the electorate that are government employees are working on the ferries? Somehow I would not be surprised!!

    • Christopher Johnston

      • October 28th, 2017 17:13

      Ian, you are confused again, so I will repeat my point with different words to assist you from your confusion:
      More Shetland voters are employed by government than in twice the combined population of Bressay, Whalsay, Unst, and Yell.
      Your idea that voters using tunnels to those islands could control elections as a bloc might be correct, but is more likely incorrect.

      • ian tinkler

        • October 29th, 2017 21:14

        Christopher, has it never crossed your mind why the combined population of Bressay, Whalsay, Unst, and Yell is so small? Why their industries are limited. Has it never occurred to you that isolation and poor transport links may be a factor? Am I going to deep for you again? Maybe not but you appear to have never thought this out beyond the very simplistic Trump type logic. Fortunately, we have no SIC party to vote for which makes your observations the #1 priority for every shetland politician as facile as your argument

  • Haydn Gear

    • October 28th, 2017 15:24

    And what , Mr Johnston, is moral about wantonly accepting human frailties and hiding them away since they cannot and do not enhance the objectives of those for whom self interest and personal gain are paramount? Wrongs should be put to right and rights should be further developed and encouraged. Where do you stand on this issue Mr J ? Have any well founded benefits to mankind ever been presented by selfish, greedy individuals or has there been a moral compass driving those who have sought to create improvements to our lot ? Most politicians need not reply !!


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