Consultants working with an isles MP have said a tunnel linking Harris and Skye could deliver savings of up to £300 million over 60 years.
Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil says a proposed tunnel linking Harris to Skye would remove ongoing costs of running a ferry service to the islands, as well as saving people time and money when waiting for sailings.
Depending on the route, the distance between Harris and Skye is approximately 25-35 miles long. By comparison, the English channel tunnel is 31 miles long.
Mr MacNeil said he had started the ball rolling on discussions for subsea tunnels between the islands with leading consultant Norconsult – due to what he says is a lack of action on his proposals by the Scottish Government.
Norconsult has already worked on projects in Norway and the Faroe islands – and are keen to get involved in the Western Isles.
Following discussions with Mr MacNeil, the consultants prepared a briefing suggesting a tunnel between Harris and Skye was the best option, with a possible additional inter-island link between Harris and North Uist.
Mr MacNeil 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 16 miles 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.
“They estimate that with investment costs and discounted operating costs, the sum of time savings and saved ferry costs could amount to more than £300 million over a 60 year period.”
Mr MacNeil said he had shared the information from Norconsult with the Scottish Government.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Initial work is underway on the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) which is identifying the transport interventions required to provide Scotland with a transport network fit for the 21st Century.”
“Any decisions on future funding of strategic transport infrastructure in Scotland will be informed by the outcomes of STPR2 and through the normal cycle of government spending reviews.”