A four-day fact finding mission to Faroe has inspired tunnel groups to forge ahead with their plans.
The Yell and Unst tunnel action groups said their recent visit had highlighted “significant parallels” between Faroe and Shetland.
Members visited all but one of the Faroese tunnels and were even granted an advanced viewing of the Sandoy tunnel, ahead of its opening later this year.
They were able to hear first-hand how tunnels had benefited the islands, from stemming depopulation, strengthening rural businesses and providing unrestricted travel across communities for work and social activity.
The delegates will now produce a report based on their findings looking at key issues such as geology, finance, and construction as well as the impacts and outcomes experienced by communities in Faroe.
It is expected that the report will be completed in the next few weeks and will be made available to all interested parties.
Utag joint chairwoman Alice Mathewson said it was clear from the discussions that mapping and geology would be key to the project.
“Geotechnical investigations form a major part of the initial investigations we are currently seeking to fund,” she added.
“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.”
Utag’s other joint chairman, Duncan Gray, added: “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”
The groups said they were very grateful to everyone they met for the “superb hospitality” and providing such comprehensive information.