Wisdom of the Faroes8 July 2019
As I write, the Tunnels and Tunnelling team is preparing to leave for the Rapid Excavation and Tunnelling Conference in the USA, the world’s richest, and one of its largest countries. It always seems to have a megaproject underway or in the pipeline.
However, right now I am reading about an important breakthrough somewhere far smaller; the Eysturoy road tunnel in the Faroe Islands has completed excavation works.
For a bit of background, the Faroe Islands is an archipelago consisting of 18 islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between Norway and Iceland. The construction of road tunnels through the steep mountains of the islands began in the 1960s and the Faroes now contain 19 tunnels. Two of them are subsea tunnels built in the early 2000s. All other roads between the islands are connected by bridges and ferries.
The Eysturoy tunnel is one of two that are currently under construction to provide better links between the capital Tórshavn and a number of locations in these remote islands.
The 11.2km Eysturoy is due to be fully complete in 2021. It spans 10.5m and has a 5% gradient, reaching a lowest point of -187m.
The second tunnel, the Sandoy, should be completed in 2023. It has a width of 9.5m and will run for 10.9km. It also has a 5% gradient and reaches a low point of -155m. The tunnels are in volcanic rock, requiring frequent inspections throughout the construction process.
Both tunnels are being built by NCC for a total of USD 288M, making them the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the Faroe Islands.
While there are technical points of interest, for example the Atlantic’s fi rst subsea roundabout, or the fact that far more grouting was required (7,500t) than expected, it is the cost of the project that is really impressive to me, and I think worthy of notice.
The Faroe Islands have a population of approximately 50,000. Divided between the population, that puts this project at about USD 6,000 per person. By contrast the UK’s Crossrail would come in at about USD 300 per person. Even the muchderided cost of High Speed 2 fails to break the USD 1,000 mark.
Yes, all of these projects will largely be funded by the end-users, but it still puts the scale of this immense investment into perspective. I would be interested to hear about other, cheap-yet-expensive projects.
They demonstrate the high social value that is placed on, and can be purchased through a successful tunnel project.