A rail or road tunnel could start in St Sampson’s in Guernsey, then travel under Herm and Sark on to Jersey and then to mainland France, according to the former head of Guernsey’s Chamber of Commerce.
And the big plans do not stop there – an artificial island would also be built between Sark and Jersey which could house a combined Channel Island’s airport, hospital, prison and university.
Businessman Martyn Dorey, who shared the idea at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Guernsey, says he thinks the project could cost between £350 million and £7 billion. His comments come months after Jersey business ‘fixer’ Kevin Keen reignited calls for the Island to look into building a bridge to France. He has since said he is willing to meet and talk to Mr Dorey.
In 2008, then Environment Minister Freddie Cohen began investigating creating a road link between the Island and France, and estimates suggested that the cost could be as much as 1.5 billion euros at the time.
Mr Keen told the JEP yesterday: ‘I maintain what I said earlier that this needs looking at and if Guernsey is now looking at it too it makes sense for us to at least look at the benefits and risks and be as objective as we can without saying we are totally for or totally against it. It needs to be examined with a cool head.’
Mr Keen thinks such an idea could be an answer to the Island’s housing issues. First-time buyers are now looking at prices in excess of more than £300,000 for a one-bed property with parking in the Island.
The businessman said his daughter bought a house in Guildford and commuted into London because house prices were cheaper in the town. He said that if there was a tunnel or bridge, Islanders could do the same.
The Island’s rising population sparked further debate recently, with the population now exceeding 106,800 and net migration averaging about 1,000 people a year in the past four years.
Mr Keen added: ‘ Any project would have to be funded by the private sector. If we are charging a toll to go across, it should be funded by the private sector although governments may have to underwrite the toll for a bit.
‘Jersey is a financial centre that funds big projects around the world. For the right business case, money is always viable. Would there be enough traffic across the bridge and is any toll going to be affordable? We’d have to answer that in a business case.’
According to reports in the Guernsey Press, Mr Dorey, an investment actuary and fintech entrepreneur, said: ‘So we’ve approached the governments of Jersey and Guernsey and we’ve spoken to the Chief Ministers. And both Chief Ministers have said they will lend their support.
‘Certainly over the coming days I’m hoping to receive a letter co-signed by both Chief Ministers lending their support to this project to investigate the feasibility of a tunnel. My view is that it needs to be done by the private sector.’
He added that the ‘grand project’ named ‘Connect 3 Million’ could double the Channel Islands’ current £7bn GDP and address recruitment and population worries by creating a new ‘Normandy economic zone’ and commuter belt stretching far into northern France.
Mr Dorey reportedly told the Chamber meeting that it was achievable, pointing to tunnels linking the Faroe Islands or airports built on artificial islands around the world.
He also cited the numbers of commuters who travelled from France to Switzerland, Luxembourg and Monaco for work.
A government spokesperson said: ‘Both Chief Ministers have agreed to an initial feasibility study being conducted, with no commitments being made by either island. At this stage there has only been an agreement to a potential piece of work being conducted by a private company, at no cost to the Island, to examine the feasibility of such a project should it be considered in the future.’