Islanders have launched a campaign to explore the possibility of building tunnels to link two isles to the Shetland mainland.
The Yell and Unst Tunnel Action Groups believe building sub-sea links could help boost economic prosperity in the islands and reduce reliance on ferry services.
The groups have already secured more than £100,000 to launch the project and want to raise additional funds to commission geo-technical investigations as well as socio-economic and environmental impact studies.
Graham Hughson, Yell Tunnel Action Group (YTAG) chairman, said: “This project seeks to lay the foundations for the tunnel infrastructure which, if successful, will breathe new life into the island communities, support economic and social development, and deliver a reliable, sustainable transport system for residents, businesses, and visitors.
“Our first challenge is to demonstrate if this scheme is technically and economically achievable, and we are very grateful to Unst Spaceport and North Yell Development Council, each of whom have committed £50,000 to the project.
“This financial support is a truly positive demonstration of how the islands’ business community view the potential connection of Unst and Yell to the Shetland mainland by subsea tunnels.
“Today we are launching the campaign to add to this funding and take the critical first step in realising our vision for unrestricted travel to Yell and Unst.
“By creating this permanent infrastructure, we can help the islands achieve their true potential, fostering economic prosperity, improving the quality of life for islanders, and promoting a sustainable future.”
SaxaVord spaceport is taking shape on a remote peninsula in Unst and it is hoped it will host a sub-orbital rocket launch in October, with the first launch into space expected in April next year
Unst is connected to Yell and Yell to mainland Shetland by ferry, however the groups said the continued reliance on ferry services is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
They believe subsea tunnels would make the islands more accessible, irrespective of weather conditions.
Unst Tunnel Action Group (UTAG) chairman Alec Priest said: “Space is often restricted for both commercial and passenger traffic at peak times, services are subject to suspension for weather, technical issues or crew availability, and running costs, maintenance, and replacement of vessels comes at an increasingly high price to the public purse.
“The proposed subsea tunnels will not only mitigate these challenges but also provide a reliable and efficient transport solution that ensures uninterrupted connectivity, irrespective of weather conditions.
“Additionally, this initiative will, in the long term, significantly reduce carbon emissions, promoting environmental sustainability and preserving the natural beauty of the islands.”
Maggie Sandison, Shetland Islands Council chief executive, said: “We meet with the action groups regularly and have discussed how we can make sure our work is complementary.
“It is really positive that the private sector is engaging proactively in supporting the work of the council, and moving forward politically important projects.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the project can do so at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/unst-yell-tunnel-action-groups-fundraiser-1