After releasing a proposed route for a fixed link to the Island, Pro-Link have now released details for a viability study.
Infrastructure specialists ARUP will undertake the work to see if a tunnel between Whippingham and the M27 east of Whitley, via Lee-on-the-Solent is possible.
The viability study will cost a total of £120,000 and will be capped by ARUP as it “should be a lot more” according to Pro-Link. These funds will be entirely raised from crowd funding.
A viability study is different to a feasibility study, as the latter would concentrate on the things that could cause problems and get in the way of a finished product – like political and geological issues.
A viability study answers questions such as how much will it cost, can it be funded and what will the benefits of this project be on a purely financial basis.
Carl Feeney, chairman of Pro-Link said: “ARUP can see the potential in this. They can see a future in being involved and want to make sure they can get this done and if they charge too much it might not get off the ground.
“Subsequent to last weeks release of the Solent Freedom Tunnel (SFT) scheme and route, we are now prepared to release the details of the project’s ARUP viability study.
“Discussions with ARUP’s Jonathan Turton have been progressing for some time, in order to gain clarity of the SFT project’s potential viability.
“As ARUP are considered to be the best in the world at performing these studies, Pro-Link is delighted they are becoming involved… and with such interest.”
Relevant mainland authorities will also be asked to become involved within the steering group. Pro-Link plans to keep the public informed of progress on the Solent Freedom Tunnel website.
The next steps after a viability study depend on its outcomes, if it is found to be not viable for financial, technical, commercial or economic reasons, then no further work will be done.
If it is viable, then the next steps involve engaging with government and the Department for Transport.
No Fixed Link Group response
Stuart Brown, group spokesman for The No Fixed Link Group said: “If they are suggesting a study would cost £120,000 I question how thorough it will be and if it will include an environmental impact study.
“Any study should also look at environmental implications and wider effects to existing infrastructure and must be whole heartedly independent of anyone with an interest in the project for financial gain.
“I would also be amazed if they will raise that money through public donations alone.
“[The group] acknowledges the updated route and funding methods of their proposed fixed link tunnel, connecting the Island to the mainland.
“The No Fixed Link Group continues to oppose the idea of a tunnel between the Island and the mainland.
“First off, from a view of practicality, the recent proposals from Pro-Link seem highly flawed.
“Pro-Link appear to be proposing a PPI 2/3 privately funded and 1/3 publicly funded project. This roughly would translate to £2 billion private investment and £1 billion public money investment. If their figure of £3 billion is accurate, which we feel it is not, then it does not take any account of the borrowing costs attributed to that investment, just the costs to construct it.
“Assuming interest rates stay close to where they are currently and are unaffected by the potential fallout of a ‘no deal Brexit’ then the project would need to generate in excess of double the current ferry income or in excess of £200 million per year for at least 30 years. This seems excessively expensive.
“It’s also worth noting the new route which was chosen due to issue with the previous one is also flawed. The exit portal seems to come up in the middle of a runway at the Solent Airport. Little thought seems to have gone into making such a study or choosing a clear route.
“We remain primarily concerned with the potential damage a tunnel could have on the island’s marine life, environment, traffic volume, healthcare, crime and tourism.
“There are also no guarantees on any potential cost, toll, location or impact to the environment or island life.”
More information is available on the ARUP study proposal at this webpage: http://solentfreedomtunnel.co.uk/the-sft-viability-study-by-arup/