Harris to Skye tunnel option - MP digs up details

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said tunnels were a serious option for the islands as a means of reducing reliance on the ferry network and making savings in the long term.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said tunnels were a serious option for the islands as a means of reducing reliance on the ferry network and making savings in the long term.

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has had discussions with Norwegian consultants on the potential for subsea tunnels for the islands.

Norconsult have led projects to construct tunnels in Norway and the Faroes and have confirmed they are willing to conduct further studies on potential in the Hebrides.

Following discussions with Mr MacNeil, the consultants prepared a brief suggesting a tunnel between Harris and Skye as the best option with a possible additional inter-island link between Harris and North Uist.

Mr MacNeil said tunnels were a serious option for the islands as a means of reducing reliance on the ferry network and making savings in the long term.

He said: “A transport network which includes tunnels is a system we should aspire to follow in the Scottish islands. We need solutions to the long term challenges.

“My discussions with Norconsult were very positive on the potential they see in the islands.

“They are currently working on three subsea projects including a 27km tunnel in Norway which, when completed, will become the world’s longest road tunnel.

“They say the rocks in Scotland and the islands are similar to rocks found in parts of Western Norway so that similar construction methods could be used and they estimate that significant savings could be made.

“I have shared the information from Norconsult with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Scottish Government and I hope this is something they will seriously consider.”

The consultants estimate socio-economic benefits from reductions in travel times and reductions in costs.

The benefits of tunnels to remote island chains can be most clearly seen in the Faroe Islands.

The Gazette reported back in May how the Faroese have created an advanced transportation network which includes 17 land tunnels, two subsea tunnels, with another subsea tunnel due to start construction this year. This system virtually eradicates the need for ferries.

The intiative has helped to bolster the economy of this remote country which lies half way between Norway and Iceland.

Commenting on future transport infrastructure a spokesman for Transport Scotland told the Gazette in May: “Work is now under way to review the National Transport Strategy (STS) to establish the strategic direction for the network in Scotland over the next 20 years and the important issue of connectivity for our islands.

“Once completed, the NTS will inform the second Strategic Transport Projects Review in identifying the transport interventions required.

“Any decisions on future funding of transport infrastructure will be informed by the outcomes of this review.”