The assessment by Stephen Whitham, head of department tunnels at international engineering firm Ramboll, comes ahead of a seminar with business leaders today organised by the Guernsey branch of the Institute of Directors
Speaking before the event, Mr Whitham said that a phased approach to construction could be taken over a five- to 10-year period. Phase one (national) would connect St Peter Port, Jersey Airport and St Helier. Phase two would be an onward international connection to France and mainland Europe.
‘Why discuss a fixed link (connection) between Guernsey and Jersey, and also, why consider a connection to France? Are we credible, misguided or is there something more driving this?’ said Mr Whitham.
‘For me at least, the answer to the project lies in finding a sustainable future for the islands. That is to say that based on forecasting and modelling, and within a generation, the ageing population of the islands will not be able to sustain themselves.
‘A permanent inter-island connection and a link to mainland France has been thought of to provide some of the solutions needed to meet this challenge.’
With the project’s merits being evaluated since last summer, the focus was on a Guernsey-Jersey rail link via a bored tunnel, although alternatives still needed further assessment given the early stages of development.
‘The intent of a rail, rather than a vehicle link, is also in recognition of the longevity of the scheme where we forecast environmentally sustainable modes of travel will become preferential to sea or air travel.
‘At this early stage, we have narrowed the mode of transport to a rail link but both a bridge or tunnel seem potentially viable.’
On the potential cost, he said it was very early to give any definite answer at this stage. ‘However, being as transparent as possible the project described (national connection) has a construction estimate of approximately £2.6bn.
‘Sources of income and the balance of finance is in discussion as it is tied to the project scope and benefits to stakeholder groups which are still open topics at this stage.’
The seminar is also set to hear from businessman Martyn Dorey, a former president of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce, who has been a driving force in the project.
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